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In Which Cauda Equina Syndrome Is Mentioned

In Which Tracy Talks About Head Cysts, Infections, BEING IN A FUCKTON OF PAIN And Medication

Three years or so ago, I noticed this annoying little lump on the back of my head. I forgot about it for about six months when my brush touched something that struck a lightning-bolt of pain down my neck, and I reached up and touched a little lump of squishy excruciating pain.

I didn’t know what it was, but I took a guess at a pimple. A plook. A zit.

I was gentle around that area for about a week, and eventually forgot about it again.

Whenever it was that I shaved my head this time, it came back to my notice, because I accidentally cut it with what I assume was a wee sharp plastic bit of the clippers. I went to Dr. David, and I told him that it had been there for “about three years or something”. He said it wasn’t a spot; it was a pilar (scalp) cyst, probably caused by the years of hair-dyeing. It didn’t have a head and it wasn’t inflamed or anything, despite the tiny cut. (Luckily, I was in seeing him for something else, and that wasn’t all I was seeing him about!)

The other week – a week or two ago? – I was getting really annoyed with it. I’d had it for three goddamned years already, and I’d been through how many courses of antibiotics? Surely it should have gone away? Now, being A) an artist and B) an idiot, I have scalpels to hand in my bedroom, and fresh blades. (Non-sterile but surgical. Clean. FRESH, JUST-OUT-OF-THE-PACK.)

I did what any idiot suffering from a manic attack would do! I found the wee bump, pressed it in so I could feel where the reservoir of crap was, and slid my scalpel in. Admittedly, it took me a few attempts to get the point of my scalpel into it properly, but then again, trained nurses sometimes take a couple of attempts to get a needle into a vein, so. I’m not gonna complain.

I HEARD IT when it happened.

I also felt it, because it kind of immediately started flowing down the back of my head. It was disgusting.

I ended up having to mop it up with tissues and then had to wait until it had scabbed over so that I could go shower.

A few days after, I popped it, and some white gunk came out.

Then I couldn’t stop picking at the scab because it was itchy as hell.

I couldn’t stop.

So I ended up with an infected wound on my head… that then expanded into an abscess beside it, too, because apparently the agony of the infected hair follicle wasn’t bad enough.

We’d decided, yesterday, to take me to the A&E if my head was no better today. So yesterday afternoon, what does my body decide to do to add to this nightmare?

It decides that yesterday is the perfect time to have one of my Back Attacks.

On a scale of 1-11 on Hyperbole And A Half’s New Pain Scale, I was a straight 9, not including my head.

I’m talking constant pain in my left hip. The complete inability to straighten my leg without my hip screaming in agony. A shooting wave of pain that comes and goes and is a FUCKING 11 and sometimes includes MUSCLE SPASMS because THE PAIN ON ITS OWN IS NOT BAD ENOUGH.

For the first time in what I think is over a year, I actually had to take my Methocarbamol, the muscle relaxant/anti-spasmodic. Excellent for helping relax the muscles.

The pain?

Yeah, let’s talk about the pain, and how the painkillers I’m on aren’t doing anything. Or, let’s talk about how I’m on so many painkillers that the doctors won’t give me any more AND I’M STILL IN PAIN.

Do you want to know how much medication I’m on? Do you?

FATGIRLslim | In Which Cauda Equina Syndrome Is Mentioned

Nine tablets in the morning, when you include the multi-vitamin I take. 4 at lunchtime. 8 at bedtime.

And that’s not including the Methocarbamol or the Almotriptan, which are only taken when I need them. It’s also not including any ad-hoc Ibuprofen which I probably shouldn’t taken but sometimes I have a headache that I just can’t deal with and Ibuprofen is the easiest answer, or that time that I was on an anti-fungal pill for a year and a half. Or any times I’ve been on prednisone or antibiotics.

AND I AM STILL IN PAIN.

In Which Cauda Equina Syndrome Is Mentioned

So yeah, we ended up in the A&E department today, Dad and I, sitting side-by-side on The World’s Most Uncomfortable Plastic Chairs EVER™. You know the ones. The ones where they dig into your ass fat if you have the audacity to be larger than a size 12.

Just exactly what I didn’t need when I have pain running down the nerves in my hip. Guess where the outwardly-curved sides of the chair pushed into. I dare you.

It took them about an hour and a half to call us, by which time I swear they’d called everyone who’d come in before and after us. Dad and I were sitting reading stuff on our tablets (I was reading a book for a review; he was reading Game of Thrones), and there was a woman who was texting someone on her phone. With the sound turned up. You’re not even supposed to have your phone turned on, in the hospital, let alone turned on, turned up, and texting people with the keysounds on.

Since I’d sat through an hour and a half of listening to other peoples’ phones going off while I swear my family are the only people decent enough to turn ours off completely, or at least turn them to SILENT (not vibrate), I turned around and said to the room, “Whoever’s playing the game or whatever it is, could you please turn the sound off?”

It’s not like I was rude or anything. I’m sitting in the fucking A&E. I sounded exhausted, because I fucking WAS.

The lady proceeded to tell me how she wouldn’t turn the phone off/down/whatever. That she wasn’t actually playing a game. And that she was going to actually do whatever she could to annoy me more, now that she knew how easily annoyed I was.

I could have punched her.

Luckily, Dad had to go out at that point, since he was sitting beside me hissing, “TRACY SHUT UP. SHUT UP. JUST SHUT UP,” through his teeth at me, and I think he had to either phone someone or take a call or do something (I honestly don’t know, he just said he was going outside for a minute WHICH IS SUSPICIOUS BY THE WAY, DAD. IF YOU WERE SMOKING I WILL HANG YOU UP BY THE BALLS AND LET THE CATS EAT YOU.) and then the nurse called me through.

The Doctor I spoke to was suspiciously handsome. And he had a good, firm handshake. I let him see my head, first, and explained what had happened. Outcome? Antibiotics and, “I don’t know what kind of artist you are, but that was a mess of a masterpiece! But please don’t do it again. Don’t touch it, don’t squeeze it, don’t rub it. And the big red lump is an abscess.”

To be honest, I expected to have a part of my head shaved, anaesthetised and cut open, drained and stitched back up again. Considering that I’m still in pain with it right now… I think I’d have preferred that.

Then we started talking about the other thing. The pain thing.

I explained my symptoms. He asked me questions about my health, with regards urinary and poop functioning, and whether or not I’ve gone numb between the legs or if I’ve had a change in sexual function of late.

Apparently, the back pain and the fact that I have difficulty with the whole having-to-go-right-away-or-I’ll-wet-myself when I need to pee aspect of things (hello, TMI, my old friend, how are you?) along with the fact that I’m getting pins and needles down my leg are pointing to Cauda Equina Syndrome.

I can’t, and don’t have the mental capacity right now, to explain it properly, beyond, “it means damage to a bunch of spinal nerves called the Cauda Equina [“horse’s tail”]”.

What does that mean?

It means, if it’s true, that I’m probably pretty much destined for major and life-threatening back surgery in the future.

When the Doctor said that, I almost had a breakdown, for two reasons.

One:

Oh Jesus Christ Almighty, BACK SURGERY. How the FUCK do I recover from BACK SURGERY?! I’m fat and huge and I live upstairs and there are 26 stairs to get to my bedroom and OH JESUS CHRIST.

But also:

OH MY GOD IF I GOT BACK SURGERY MAYBE THE PAIN WOULD GO AWAY.

Today, however, the most he could do was apologise, because he couldn’t even give me painkillers, because of the amount of medication that I’m already on. He did offer to admit me to hospital for the afternoon to hook me up to a Morphine drip, but admitted that, considering I’m already on Morphine, it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.

In Which There’s A Bit Of A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

He asked me if I went to the gym (not right now; I had to give it up due to money issues, but I’m planning to rejoin soon); how I’m trying to lose weight (cutting way down on portion sizes, with my Mum to help, but I have an eating disorder that means portion sizes don’t particularly mean anything when you eat 8 meals a day); and if I’m attending Physiotherapy.

No, I said. I did call for a referral to physio, about two years ago, but when they listened to my symptoms, they said “it wasn’t bad enough to actually get an appointment for physio. What’s your email address? We’ll send you a link to a website where you can get some exercises you can do at home that will help you.”

(Not a word of a lie. That’s pretty much what they said. Not an exact quote, but that’s what they said.)

The Doctor picked up that slip of paper with my medications written on it, and thrust it into the air.

“THIS. THIS ‘ISN’T BAD ENOUGH’?”

I was so busy crying that I could hardly reply, “Right? I know.”

So he’s getting me a referral for physio.

Which, as we discussed, isn’t going to do a huge deal to help me. It might help a little, but it obviously won’t solve all of my problems.

He also told me that I’m not just allowed to sit around and do nothing about all of this. I have to fight for the treatment I need. He said I should have an MRI and a CAT scan, as a minimum, but the hospital won’t hand the permission out for these unless they know for sure that you already have CES, because they don’t want to have wasted the money otherwise.

(Sidenote: this is one reason why Scottish Independence is so important. Funding to the NHS is being cut so harshly that things like this are happening. I was turned down for bariatric surgery because I didn’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, despite the fact that I weigh 28 stones. With Independence, the Scottish NHS could allocate its full funds as it sees fit, not just how it can afford. #voteyes #indyref #yesscotland etc *GRUMP*)

And shock, horror.

What it all boils down to is the 380lb elephant in the room.

Losing weight won’t guarantee me a pain-free life. The pain might not, and probably won’t, magically disappear if I lose all the weight tomorrow. Especially not if it’s a spinal thing, or a neurological thing. If it’s a skeletal thing, the bones need to mend.

Basically, what it all boils down to, is that I’ve eaten myself to the point that my body is collapsing. I’ve tried to convince myself for years that I’m not disabled.

I think this is my body’s way of trying to convince me otherwise, so that maybe I’ll finally start taking care of it.

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