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Speak Up - or Die
Speak Up - or Die
Twenty years ago, I lost my mum. When I explained how it happened to a friend recently, it felt like it happen yesterday. Mum was 56 when she died soon after learning she had renal cancer. The doctors dismissed her symptoms for about two years. They repeatedly told her that the pain in her lower back was all in her head, or they were recommending a chiropractor. By the time she got a second opinion, it was too late. She died a short while later.
I went through a similar experience this year. My doctor kept telling me the pain in my shoulder, chest and thumb was the result of menopause. Instincts told me it was something else. I went to a physiotherapist who told me it was likely a grumpy costotransverse joint. I had emergency surgery four months later and discovered I had cervical spondylosis. Now, I'm coping with lifelong pain management. At least it’s not terminal, like Mum’s!
What I realised through the experience - both of my mum’s death and my situation - is that you must always, always, always, listen to your instincts. If your body is telling you something, listen. And listen closely.
Just because someone holds a medical degree does not mean they know what’s going on with your body. When I initially went to my doctor, I listened to what she said. But the pain continued - and it fluctuated. One day it felt fine but over time, I realised it was actually getting worse. My shoulder, chest, and thumb pain progressed into a sensation of someone standing behind me, pushing my shoulders down.. Eventually, I could only be vertical for an hour at a time. After thirty minutes of being horizontal, I could function again.
I knew something wasn’t right. And I instinctively knew it wasn’t menopause, which is what my doctor was insisting it was.
I had one advantage my mother did not: the internet. While I didn’t self-diagnose, I looked up symptoms of menopause. I read article after article, and nothing about menopause pointed to the pain in my shoulder or chest. I could attribute the pain in my thumb to arthritis, but certainly not menopause.
My cervical spondylosis results from osteo-arthritis. (Yes, that’s a fun diagnosis - arthritis in my spine.) And now I’m on on a management plan to deal with that diagnosis.
But as I continue with this plan, to manage the pain and build strength again, I’m still listening to my body. I go to hydrotherapy twice a week. It’s a two-hour drive to get there and back (156km/97 miles) but what I get from the class is worth the drive. I leave the pool feeling healthy but tired. But I feel the difference. Movement is good.
So is looking out for myself. Because no one else is going to do it.
Photo Credit: Haley Phelps | Unsplash
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