By Sandie Briar
With ill health comes a newfound strength that gives an insight into the real me. I see things now that need mastering so I can live a half-decent life.
I’m 68 years old and have followed my maternal grandmother and mother with osteoarthritis that manifests in our hands and wrists leaving us with joint deformity. Day-to-day activities are painful and slow. My passion for gardening and writing are affected, but I persevere. One of the blessings of gardening is to watch as a robin edges ever closer to me as I weed. I look at his tiny legs and think that if he trusts those, then my fingers are there to still help me.
There is hardship without the use of your hands. Over time, my elbows, knees, and rear have become door openers and closers. I also followed my dear mum with hypothyroidism. The worse symptom for me is hair loss. I’m not at all vain, but a lady’s hair is her crowning glory. Sadly, this is not the case for me, but I have hats. I have also lost weight, rushing around as my metabolism increased.
Settling into my sixties with these conditions, I swore that positivity and exercising as much as I could would be the keys to good health. I coped with medications prescribed by my GP, a good diet, and natural remedies.
Then last summer I began to get a severe stabbing pain that shot into my shoulder. The pain was so brutal it made me shout and my face drain of colour, but as soon as it came it went away. Because of COVID-19, doctors weren’t seeing patients in person, so I called and spoke to a GP who asked about any other symptoms I was having. When I said I had weight loss of three sizes, I was seen immediately.
After I did various tests, blood work, and provided stool samples, I was sent to the cancer clinic where they performed a gastroscopy. Despite my gut feeling that I didn’t need a colonoscopy, I was told to have it as a precaution, so I complied. Under sedation, as the scope turned into my colon, I had what can only be described as a labour pain that stunned me. I knew something had happened.
Days later, my colonoscopy results came back clear, but my GP told me they had found a small cancer in my pancreas. She prescribed pain medication, and I waited for another appointment that I thought would be with oncology. After five weeks of not hearing anything, I rang my GI consultant who told me I did not have cancer! To say I was stunned is an underestimate. After all, I had told friends and family and paid for my cremation.
After my misdiagnosis was addressed – the doctor said we are all human and mistakes happen – I learned that the plumbing between my gallbladder and pancreas was enlarging. Normally, the tube is 3mm and mine had increased to 6mm causing a stitch-like pain. Then, I started to go to the loo five times a day and was incontinent at times. The pains were indescribable, I experienced bloating, and I developed an intolerance to foods I’ve always loved.
Following an MRI and CT scan, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Since last October, I have been battling to control this and it is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I challenge it with a good dose of positivity, but my world has changed massively. At first, I was a prisoner to it, but I was called for jury duty and I could not be excused, so I had to muster all my strength and get to the city at rush hour, which with IBS is not the easiest thing to achieve!
I’m a Spiritualist with a remarkable daughter, nearly 40, with a beautiful soul, who has supported me through everything. My garden and its inhabitants, my church family, and my friends have helped me as well. In addition to medications prescribed by my GP, I take a cocktail of herbal remedies to balance my gut and I watch my diet. I feel that I am making good progress. Yes, sometimes I weaken and cry, but I don’t ask ”Why me?” I already know it is because there are lessons I must learn, and I will learn them no matter what. I know that many things may break down, but they can be repaired, if not completely, enough to make life all I want and to continue on my path with a smile on my face, my head held high, and a hug for anyone who needs one.
A retired secretary, Sandie Briar lives in Redditch in Worcestershire, England. She enjoys gardening, writing poetry, learning French, and spending time with her daughter SallyJane.
Thank you, Sandie, for sharing your story of perserverance and hope with our readers.
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