In December 2017 I was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer for the first time. I didn’t know what “having cancer” would entail and I never expected the level of pain that it would cause me both physically and emotionally. Although I managed to find myself in remission from the cancer itself, it left me with a stark reminder of it: constant pain.
We flew through the basic painkillers going from paracetamol to morphine to fentanyl pretty quickly as well as drugs like Gabapentin to try and control the neuropathy that formed in my feet initially due to the chemotherapy. By the time I finished treatment the neuropathy began to spread and is now head to toe. We then discovered that I have avascular necrosis in my hips, and that the left side would require a full hip replacement.
What began as a tingling in my feet and a burning in my lower back morphed and grew as my treatment went on. Now, my legs and hips burn almost constantly, and during acute flares they feel like someone is setting off electric shocks in waves from the tips of my toes to the top of my head.
We knew pretty quickly that I would need to learn to manage the pain on top of the medications we were trying. I started to use alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, guided meditations and virtual reality to try and control the barrage of pain I was dealing with constantly. All of these helped me maintain control but didn’t necessarily aid me in lessening the pain. So we tried a Lidocaine infusion to dampen my nervous system and improve my pain levels. Sadly Lidocaine infusions don’t always work, and it didn’t work for me.
Eventually I was referred to a clinic to speak to them about medicinal cannabis. I was prescribed two cannabis oils containing both CBD and THC as well as cannabis to vape. The aim being for the oils to slowly build up a background presence and the vape to deal with any acute flares of pain. So far, cannabis is having the most positive effect on my pain levels of anything that I have tried thus far.
Cancer and chronic pain have turned my life upside down. I used to be a young vibrant mother of two gorgeous little girls. But very quickly it became apparent that I couldn’t cope caring for my girls alone anymore. I went from school runs to being bed bound. Now all I can hope is that with a hip replacement I will get my mobility back. In terms of the pain, we seem to be making progress with the oils and vape which is the best news we could have after searching for anything to help control the pain I am in.
I don’t expect to ever be 100% pain free, but I am so glad to have found something to help me. I am on heavy opioids and other strong drugs that I would like to be able to cut down on once I have had my hip surgery and am back on my feet again.
Living with chronic pain doesn’t necessarily mean that you spend your whole time rolling around in pain – you see your body does adapt to the pain the best it can, so even though someone who tells you they suffer chronic pain looks just fine, beneath the surface they are likely to be handling waves of pain, beating them from every direction. It can be debilitating and it can definitely cause mental health struggles.
Chronic pain and conditions that cause it are very real, but usually are hidden from view. I know I’ve gotten good at hiding the pain I’m in a lot of the time. So let’s be kind to everyone we meet, because we just have no idea what kind of silent battles are being waged where we cannot see them.