Living with pain

Not that long ago really, in terms of a lifetime, I was in great shape and very healthy. During my years in the Okanagan I was incredibly active. I ran a hiking club, year round. In the summer months every Sunday, weather permitting, I would roller-blade usually for several hours. I had several boats and went water-skiing at every opportunity, even learning to slalom. I biked the Kettle Valley many times. My Dad and I dirt-biked all over the Okanagan and in Revelstoke. I played tennis, although not as often as I would have liked. I even para-glided, which was awesome. In the winter I downhill skied, cross-country skied and snowmobiled. I played racquetball three times a week, including Sunday mornings which usually ran three hours or more. I danced for hours usually once or twice a week at the Corral. Most of my many good friends were twenty years younger than me because people my own age couldn’t keep up. I was a very fit one hundred and seventy pounds and, despite the fact that I smoked and ate my fair share of fast food, I had all kinds of stamina and energy. I slept like a baby and was rarely sick, usually a cold once a year or so.

Things changed in 2004 after my dirt-bike accident where I tore up my foot pretty bad. The doctor said I had to stay off my foot for probably up to a year because if I re-injured it I may never walk again. I heeded the advice and basically sat around eating and watching TV. Soon I had ballooned to two hundred and twenty pounds. Suddenly I had all kinds of health issues, like acid reflux, and I couldn’t walk up the stairs without puffing. When I went to my doctor he was shocked at my weight gain and bluntly told me I had better lose the weight or I would probably have a heart attack. This was also when I was diagnosed as diabetic.

Over the next few months I managed to lose the weight and gradually returned to my active lifestyle. I felt so much better and my diabetes was controlled by only Metformin and nothing else. After my Dad passed away in 2005 I moved in with my mother to care for her because she had Alzheimer’s. This was a twenty-four seven job so I had little chance to do anything that meant leaving her. My brother and sister were useless in giving me a break. I did manage to do a lot of work around the house and I completely rebuilt the beach area and added a new dock.

After my sister took my mother to Revelstoke I sold the house and moved to a place that I basically took over the mortgage on and worked my tail off for a year and a half gutting and rebuilding. Seven days a week I worked very long and physical days. One consequence was that by the end of the day I could barely walk because of the pain in my feet. I had plantar fasciitis big time, but I found inserts called HeelThatPain which worked really well and I still wear them today. At one point, after things fell apart with the reno, I was under such stress that my sugars were off the chart. My doctor put me on large doses of insulin which brought down my sugars. He also told me that I was a poster child for a heart attack and I needed to find a way to get out from under all the stress. This is when I moved to Panama.

In Panama I got involved in the renovation of a multi-apartment house for a guy back in Kelowna and again worked long days, seven days a week. In the sixteen months I was in Panama I took one week-end off. My meds continued to be Metformin and reasonably small doses of one kind of insulin. Then I had my gall bladder attack and my emergency surgery in a third-world hospital that nearly killed me.

After I was forced to return to Canada my first doctor was horrified at the twenty year-old type of invasive surgery I had and which would not bode well in the future. I still managed to remain fairly active in Toronto, mostly biking and some roller-blading. Then I moved to London and soon the downhill slide would start. I did continue to bike the trails around London and get in some roller-blading and ice skating before I started having issues with my feet. This started after I worked four months at Home Depot, walking the concrete floors in cheap work boots. By the end of even a four hour shift I could barely walk.

The pain in my feet continued to get worse and my doctor suspected I had peripheral neuropathy, which was soon confirmed by an EMG at the hospital. Not only did they confirm I had it in my feet, but it was also starting in my hands. This was particularly disturbing because I spend twelve hours a day on the computer. As my sugars continued to deteriorate my diabetic specialist doubled, then tripled my two types of insulin. This, combined with a total lack of exercise resulted in putting on thirty-five pounds. The acid reflux returned along with a host of new ailments. Just recently an ultrasound confirmed that I have what’s called an incisional hernia as a result of the botched surgery in Panama.

So, today this is my life. I am already on the maximum daily dose of Gabapentin, the pain killer for my neuropathy. Despite this the pain is twenty-four seven. I walk with a cane because the pain makes me lose my balance. The pain in my hands is now getting worse by the day. My hernia is painful, but the surgeon can’t operate until I somehow magically find a way to lose weight. My shoulders, which were diagnosed as “frozen shoulder” are painful, especially when trying to put a coat on. My knees are starting to ache like I have arthritis. I have to take a sleeping medication to stay asleep at night. I can’t eat anything without it causing unbelievable flatulence and belching. Because my sugars remain high I am having trouble with my vision, especially first thing in the morning. I have to magnify my windows to be able to read on the internet. I need a nap every day mid afternoon, partly because I have sleep apnea and also because of the meds I’m on.

There are days when I don’t think I can take it anymore. I just came out of fourteen weeks of counseling, which helped but offered no solutions for my situation. My therapist couldn’t believe what I have been through or how much I am dealing with now. My mental health is about as good as my physical health. The horrible situation with my kids, realizing that it’s been twenty years since my daughter had any contact with me. I have five grandchildren I’ve never met. I live in a city I loathe. I have no friends and no social life. Life is really taking a toll on my sanity right now. I am usually such a decisive person, but right now I am adrift. My quality of life is diminishing rapidly.