Still searching for that magic wand…..

I’ve never really understood just how desperate a person can be to feel well again until this last year. I’ve heard stories of people with chronic illness, debilitating conditions, even terminal illness, who have resorted to the most far-fetched, seemingly ridiculous measures, simply to try to feel better. And I never thought that I would find myself feeling as desperate as that.

But this last fifteen months, feeling better has been the only thing I have wanted. Each night I have gone to bed praying that the following day I will wake up and some of these horrific symptoms will be gone. As the months pass by and I have learned to accept that I’m not going to feel better as if by magic, I have found myself resorting to alternative measures, exploring different ideas that in all honesty, I would have previously dismissed and ridiculed! I have repeatedly told myself that one of these days, something will help me to feel more like my old self again.

The first few months of my illness were very much consumed with doctors appointments, hospital referrals and waiting on test results. And I was completely unable to focus on anything else at all. I spent a great deal of time on google, convinced that I was dying and when other people suggested that I tried x, y or z, I wanted to slap them, shake them or scream at them, “Vitamin D wont save me now!!!!!”.

And yet as the months went by, I did start to explore other options, very basic ones at first. I spent a small fortune in Holland and Barret, bought myself an array of vitamins, supplements and tonics and I took them religiously each and every night. They were all there lined up on the window sill, like multi coloured Russian dolls, greeting me each morning with the prospect that one of those little pills might be the very thing that my body was crying out for. And yet if I’m honest, I didn’t feel that they made the slightest difference and eventually they collected dust, fell down the back of the dressing table and were never to be seen again.

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As the desperation crept in, I decided to explore alterative therapy. I began weekly appointments with a chiropractor who told me that I needed to re-align my spine and proceeded to karate chop me in the neck, knee me in the base of my spine and face plant me down on a musty smelling towel while she subjected me to all sorts of torture. I feared for my life at one point as she cracked my neck from side to side and told me that I needed three sessions a week at £40 a session or I could pay upfront at £500 a course. And at the prospect of breaking my bank balance, along with my back, I politely told her that I would be in touch. And that was that.

Next I was recommended to see a holistic therapist, something that I was more than a little sceptical of. My desperation out weighed my cynicism and so off I went, with an open mind that perhaps this man would be the answer to my problems. I spent the majority of the session biting my lip from laughing as he told me that I was allergic to parsley and lamb and a variety of other food stuffs that I have never heard of, let alone eaten. He explained that he could create me a special tonic that he would imprint onto what appeared to be no more than a plaster, and that if I wore it, it would erase all genetic illness from my brain. Whenever I stopped to question exactly how he was going to do this he told me, “Ssssh, we need silence for the tonic to work!”.  I think that it was at the point where he told me that he could change my DNA through voice reactive computer software when I realised that sadly, this was not the magic cure I was after.

A few weeks later I went along to see a osteomyologist, again something that I had never heard of and was very cynical about. However, having read up on his website and the positive testimonials on there, I was feeling quite optimistic. The fact that his office was no more than a shack in his heavily padlocked back garden did set alarm bells ringing slightly and yet I reminded myself about the many reviews from people claiming that this man had changed their lives. At the point where he asked me to remove my top, again convincing myself that perhaps this was normal for such appointments, he asked me to lay face down on the bed and proceeded to remove my bra whilst attaching what appeared to be sink plungers on the end of a hose pipe to my back and told me that the machine needed to work its magic. An hour later, stinking of deep heat, I drove home feeling disheartened (and also slightly disturbed) that I had hit another brick wall.

Anyone who knows me will appreciate that exercise is simply not in my vocabulary and so it is proof of my desperation when I decided that perhaps exercise could be exactly what I needed to feel better? I ended up agreeing to go to a local exercise class with a friend, my brand spanking new trainers glowing fluorescently and making me stand out like a sore thumb. “Is it hard?” I asked her. “Will I be out of breath?” I had worried, and she had told me “Nooo, its fine, it’s really quite easy!”. An hour later, having already rang an ambulance five times in my head, my heart beating out of my chest, I had staggered back to my car and collapsed. The following day I ended up at the emergency doctors with ulna nerve entrapment in both elbows from all of the weight lifting. And that was the end of that.

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With my arms temporarily out of action, I decided that running was the way forward. I have always been envious of those people who love to run, who enter half marathons for fun, who go for a ten-mile jog to “clear their head”. The more I thought about it the more I asked myself, how hard can it be? And despite the fact that I hadn’t run for over twenty years, not since the days of running club at school where three of my friends and I would run around the local park while we mocked the heavily overweight maths teacher who ran it, I signed up, along with a friend, for a 5k run/obstacle course…in the mud!!!!

And although I had every intention of training, the furthest I actually got was downloading the couch to 5k app on my phone. As the day approached I started to panic slightly, more so as we arrived at the park and saw the enormity of what met us. Obstacle courses that were literally waist deep in thick, cold mud. Wide expanses of grass which we were expected to run across. Random men in army gear squirting everyone with ice cold water?! There was a point where I considered running alright, right back to the safety of my own car!!

But the whistle blew and off we went, and admittedly I thought I was going to die. As I ploughed my way through the first obstacle, kissed goodbye to my brand spanking new trainers and prayed that the finish line would miraculously appear in front of me, I told myself that if I admitted defeat I would never live it down! And so for thirty nine minutes I ran, climbed, crawled, hobbled my way around the course, threw myself into a sprint finish and when I got that medal around my neck I felt like Usain Bolt!! Spurred on by the euphoria, my body rushing with endorphins I told my friend that we should sign up for another one, maybe even a half marathon? This time next year let’s go crazy and do the London Marathon! And three days later when I was still struggling to walk up the stairs without crying, I realised that actually, running wasn’t for me either.

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A couple of weeks ago, after a lazy summer off,  I dusted off my trainers and decided to give Pilates a go. I had heard it was amazing for the core, would help me with my sciatica, the various issues with my neck and back and if nothing else, help me to relax. Little did I know that the class was run by Chorleys very own female version of  Peter Kay. For every five minutes of Pilates, there followed a ten minute stand up performance which admittedly had me in stitches, and afterwards I wasn’t sure if the ache in my sides was from the Pilates itself, or the hysterical laughter!! But in all fairness, Pilates was the lesser of all evils. Any exercise that is 90% lying down? Well that works for me!!

And it isn’t just exercise that I have tried, I have been back and forth with various ideas on ways to change my diet. I tried going sugar-free and lasted all of thirty six hours. I tried juicing but couldn’t even stomach the first glass. I tried low carb, high carb, no carb…you name it I tried it, and nothing helped.

So when a friend recommended that I try going gluten-free I decided it was worth a shot. I had read up on the subject extensively, the many health benefits and evidence to suggest that cutting out gluten works wonders for autoimmune conditions. I read countless stories of people who had been so crippled with pain, wheelchair bound, drugged up to their eyeballs on painkillers, who had cut out gluten and been running marathons the following year. And as I read, I was thinking, this is amazing!! This could well be the answer I have been looking for!! And then the reality sank in…

No bread.

No pasta.

No biscuits.

No cake.

No Toffee Crisps!!!!!

And I told myself that being in pain eating a slab of chocolate cake was still a far better alternative than being pain free and miserable!

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But as the months have passed and everything else has failed, I have constantly come back round to the idea, heavily encouraged by my GP, that maybe it was worth a shot. And the more I think about it the more I realise that actually, ANYTHING is better than feeling like this day in, day out. And so whilst it may not work miracles, as of yesterday, I am officially gluten-free!!

I spent a good two hours trailing around Tesco yesterday, creeping along the aisles, scrutinising food labels and consulting google, trying to work out the many ways in which they try to sneak gluten into random food stuffs. But with my trolley fully loaded with all sorts of alternatives, I felt optimistic that this could well help me to feel better.

And whilst Gluten free bread may not be anywhere near as good as a Warburtons Toastie loaf, toasted and smothered in butter it is the closest thing to bread that I can hope for. And whilst I spent the entire day salivating over the 12 pack of Cadbury’s mini rolls in the cupboard, I still restrained myself from snaffling the lot! And half way through day one, I was silently high fiving myself!!!

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Today I woke dreaming of Twix biscuits and chocolate cake, found myself salivating as I watched the children shovel in their toast this morning, like a crack addict desperate for my next fix, and this afternoon resorted to an all time low when I found myself licking a brioche bun. God only knows how I’m going to cope with this weeks episode of The Great British Bake Off…??

And yet as hard as it is, and admittedly quite comical, to make these changes to my lifestyle, it’s pretty much my only option. Because it’s hard enough feeling unwell when you know that you will eventually recover, but even worse when you have no idea if you will ever feel well again. And whilst I may not wake up tomorrow feeling the picture of health, maybe not even next month or next year, I have to remain optimistic that eventually I will get better or else I may as well climb into my sick bed and stay there for all eternity!!

And if all else fails, maybe in a year or two if I really do get desperate, I can always give the DNA guy a call……

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