Meet The Pacific Blonde
My name is Emma and this is my blog; this page here is my story.
My story began when I was ten and I suffered a rolled ankle. And as any ten year old would, I made a huge drama about it. Problem was, once the swelling went down, once the ice stopped working, the pain didn’t stop. It just kept going.
Arthritis, instep, overstep, someone tried to put me in a cast, most sent me onto the next specialist. My GP was both frustrated and baffled, and offered me a naturopath and a psychologist. My dance teacher was frequently frustrated, my mother was terrified. I had x-rays and MRI’s and blood tests and physio appointments. Everything hurt, and no one knew what was going on with my little foot.
6 months later, my parents stumbled across a specialist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. He diagnosed me one the spot, and within a month, the pain was gone. I had RSD – now known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. Essentially, the nerves in my foot were sending incorrect pain signals to my brain, and hence, I was in agony.
At the time, when I was on the top floor of the RCH, playing iToy with the nurses, it was great. It hurt, but I was getting somewhere. But after I was ‘fixed’, my family came across another problem – my tough-as-nails GP. She was the family GP, and she knew me well. Unfortunately for me, she was also very dark about the RSD diagnosis. Everything I bought to her from that point onwards was RSD. Shoulder strain? RSD. Flu symptoms? RSD. Vomiting? RSD. The answer? A psychologist and a kick up the butt. And I coped until 2013.
When I was 17, I went on what was supposed to be the ‘school camp of a lifetime’.
Two weeks in Greece and Italy, learning about Classical culture, from literature to history. From what I remember, it was phenomenal. But I don’t really remember a lot.
When I returned home, I was essentially dead, but true to the ‘push through’ philosophy we had created, I did just that. Eventually, I came down with a heavy bought of tonsilitis, followed by severe abdominal pain. Five days later, I had my appendix removed, and was diagnosed with mesenteric adonitis, tonsilitis, appendicitis, free fluid on my stomach and glandular fever. Two weeks later, I was back at school
My final year of school was a blur.
I was tired, I was sore and eventually, I was diagnosed with anxiety. Usually, I had no idea what was going on, and my parents essentially nursed me through my final grades. But I pushed through, and went straight to university, living in a college in Melbourne.
It was an old, cold building, and consistent water hammer in the roof of just my room saw me sleeping at my grandparents, 10km away, every night, for a whole term. Assignments came and went. Anxiety stopped me from attending the dining hall and eating. I lived on tea, toast and fruit, didn’t attend parties and got – you guessed it – consistently sicker. Eventually, I couldn’t walk the 300m to university anymore.
I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, and treated by a naturopath, which made me a little better, but overall my quality of life was getting worse. I was isolated, anxious and miserable, taking 26 (ahem natural) medications a day and unable to think straight, participate in college life without a panic attack or really do anything.
My second year of university I moved out, into a little flat, all by myself. For two months, everything was perfect – I bought myself a little cat, named Luna, I cooked whatever I wanted to eat and there was so little noise it wasn’t funny. I had a lovely job in administration a few km away, rows of book shelves and cheap wine right down the road. My oldest friends could visit whenever they wanted to, I joined a gym and uni was incredibly interesting.
On the 28th of March, something happened.
The largest, and most incredible pain I had ever experienced. True to form, I curled up in bed and coped. The next day, I visited a campus doctor, who told me it was probably nothing. So I drove the 150km home, to see my local GP, who again, said it was nothing. Have you been going to the toilet properly?
I went back the next day, to my dads GP, and demanded an ultrasound, which I was refused (I’ve since found out is illegal, so heads up kiddies). So I went to another doctor, at the same practice, who, after a lot of crying and a bit of legal threatening, reluctantly gave me the form.
That same day, the sonographer found a 75mm haemorrhagic cyst in my left ovary.
That’s the same size as an orange. My GP left a message for me at reception, saying that it would go away, and to come see her on Monday – my radiologist uncle said to get my arse into the Emergency Department. So I did.
Once the cyst was out, I went back to my little flat, and coped with my usual little problems – but with massive, massive abdominal pain. For a few weeks, I went back into hospital, but essentially, nothing was found. I deferred university. I lost my job because I was always sick. I lost friends. I lost my apartment. I packed up, and moved home.
It was 5 months, three GP’s, four ultrasounds, two specialists, two gynaecologists, an MRI and two hemispheres later that I found my pain specialist.
I was diagnosed, possibly for the first time in my life, correctly. Fibromyalgia Syndrome, General Chronic Pain Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachdychardia Syndrome, Anxiety and Depression. It’s a real list, and not one I like to share.
Since, I’ve been introduced to a proper medical management system, and have completed another semester of university. I’ve had multiple stints in hospital, another surgery and a physical exercise program in place. Currently, I’m freeloading off my parents, who are living in Dublin.
All of these photos, the ones I’ve punctuated this story with, are pieces of me between my illness. These are all times that I put on my face, zipped up my jeans (despite the pain) and slapped on a smile for my friends. It’s taken me a long time to stop saying ‘I want my life back’, and to start taking it back.
Feel free to chat to me anytime you want,