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  • Writer's pictureKris Barling

Things are looking up

Finally, I feel as though I can write a post that isn't all doom and gloom!! This makes me happier than you can imagine. Over the last couple of weeks I have been working out like an animal. Not physically, but mentally! I have learnt so much about the body, and in particular my own body and have been able to answer so many questions. I am now starting to feel as though there is hope and light at the end of what has been a very painful tunnel. 

I will admit, I have still, from time to time been watching my trash TV, but the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills have been put on hold for now as I learn more and more about the healing of Plant Based nutrition. 

Upon learning more about my current injury, I have been motivated to learn more about what I can do to help it. Last Friday I received another cortisone injection. This one was much more intense than the others. I managed to control my emotions right up until the point where I stepped out of the building and proceeded to break down in an absolute blubbering mess. The pain that I was in, combined with the reality of how badly I had injured my back was too much to handle. I have been forced to accept that crying hysterically is something that I seem to do these days. It has just been something that kind of has been the norm in my life whilst going through this horrible experience. Since having the injection last Friday, my pain levels worsened. This was not what I had expected. After speaking with the Professor who has now taken over my injections, I was hopeful that this would now start to help me make progress, yet every day since I had the higher injection, I was in more and more pain. It got to the point on Tuesday, where I went to stand up after waking in the morning, I fell straight back down in excruciating pain. I have to admit, I panicked. I had no idea what to do, how could this possibly have gotten worse???? I had been resting, I had been avoiding activity that could aggravate the nerve, the injection was supposed to make me feel better and instead I was in even more pain. I was so close to giving up, I was on the edge. In a panic, I made a phone call to my friend who suggested that I call an ambulance. I knew how much pain I was in and I was so scared but I couldn't bring myself to calling an ambulance. Calling an ambulance is for people who are suffering heart attacks, car accidents, dying etc. I felt like I had no right to call an ambulance because of a back injury. Eventually, after a few hours of crying hysterically, I decided to go back to my Doctor to see what he said. He told me to go to Emergency at the hospital. Again, I didn't know what to do. You might think I'm stupid, but I felt so guilty going to emergency. Especially since, as I was there about five or six ambulances rocked up. Each one transporting someone who could have possibly been dying. I felt so stupid being there and as though I was a complete time waster. 

Despite this, the staff at the hospital- Lyell Mac, were incredible. They treated me with such kindness and didn't treat me as though I was a time waster. I didn't wait for very long at all to go through, even though there were so many people in the waiting room. 

When I was able to see the Doctor, she was lovely. The nurses had to do their obligatory observations, which, as normal when this happens they have a complete look of confusion on their face when they take my pulse rate. Because I have an enlarged heart I have Tachycardia, which means my heart rate generally sits around 40 beats per minute. I always have to explain this to nurses before they go into panic and I get hooked up to ECG's...... 

The Doctor looked at my scans and did a series of tests and further scans. After some back and forth, she put forward a very logical explanation. One of the reasons why I was in more pain after having the injections is partly because my sciatic nerve actually runs through the middle of my piriformis muscle. In fact, in most people, shoving a huge needle into the glute muscle would cause the glutes to tighten. I already have extremely muscular and tight glutes that when I was having the injections, the needle was causing the muscle to tighten and compress on the sciatic nerve even more. Basically, undoing the goodness that the cortisone was meant to be doing!! I was then given some new medication. Stronger pain relief- Endone (which I hopefully won't have to take for much longer) and Diazepam to relax the muscles. 

The last couple of days I have still been in quite a lot of pain but I was hopeful. 

In the meantime, I researched the hell out of Disc Injuries and the role that nutrition plays. 

In a nutshell, here's a few things I have found out......

Disc Extrusions are very extreme. A disc bulges, which can press against the nerve and cause pain. Over time, the disc can extrude. This causes what is called an annular tear in the disc and the contents of the disc (fluid) escapes into the epidural space (the passageway for the spinal nerves), compressing the nerves, in my case, the thickest and biggest nerve in the body- the sciatic nerve. Ultimately, this is what causes the extreme pain. Anyone who knows what nerve pain feels like will understand, and if you don't, thank your lucky stars!! As crazy as it sounds though, the body can speed up the healing process if this happens because the body will detect that there is foreign matter in the epidural space and the immune system will begin to attack the foreign material and break it down. Reduced inflammation will help the tear over time to heal and the body can naturally remove the fluid from the epidural space. Over time, once the tear is healed, the body does have the ability to reproduce the fluid contents within the disc. All of this takes time, however, it is possible to assist the body through nutrition and gentle movement. At the moment, movement hasn't been a possibility because of my extreme pain levels, however, nutrition is something that I can control.

I have researched foods that slow down healing and increase inflammation. In particular, these foods are:

* Refined sugars

* Processed Foods

* Dairy

* Red meat, including processed meats and grain fed meats (as they need to inject the animals with antibiotics due to their unnatural diet)

* Wheat

* Fried Foods

* Artificial sweeteners and additives

* Saturated Fats

* Refined Flour 

* A second round of alcohol (ie. one glass of red wine is ok, more become inflammatory)

* Trans Fats

In addition, some foods that reduce inflammation are:

* Tomatoes

* Olive oil

* Green leafy vegetables

* Nuts

* Fruits (in particular berries, cherries and oranges)

* Coconut

* Turmeric

* Coffee (limited amounts)

* Red wine (only one standard glass)

So, since Saturday, I have completely overhauled my diet and removed all foods that promote inflammation and am replacing these foods with foods that reduce inflammation. 

Today I went for another injection. Prior to this I spoke to my GP again who explained that I was very lucky to see this man for my injections now as he is a very well respected Professor. Before the injection, the Professor and I spoke in depth about how things were going. I am very grateful that he is not only a very knowledgeable man but also extremely caring and gave me the time of day to answer my questions and explain everything to me. He was very upfront and honest again and we talked about surgery. He said that the damage in my spine was extreme and that a surgeon would operate without hesitation. He explained in further detail what the surgery would entail. He said that they would remove the fluid that had escaped the disc and was in the epidural space, causing all of the pain. He said that unfortunately, although that would temporarily reduce my pain levels, they would not be able to mend the annular tear in the disc. The disc would then reproduce fluid and eventually the fluid would fill the epidural space again and cause the same issues. With every surgery, I would end up with more scar tissue (which in my case would be more as I am prone to keloid scarring. This was apparent when I had a follow up scan after having my cervical cancer removed, I had developed quite a lot of scar tissue on my cervix). This would mean that over time, I would be in permanent pain for the rest of my life. 

After a lengthy discussion, we both decided that avoiding surgery was the best possible thing and that we will increase the dosage of cortisone. I decided that I would do my absolute best to suck up the pain and to be patient. 

So, today, as painful as it was at the time- because trust me, having a massive needle shoved into your ass isn't one of the most pleasant experiences, the Professor gave me a large dose of cortisone. 

I was in a fair bit of pain as I left the surgery and was struggling to walk, but it wasn't to the point where it reduced me to tears. I am now home, and as I am typing this, my pain level is under a 5/10. It hasn't been under a 10/10 for probably the last two weeks, even with Panadiene Forte, Celebrex, Tramadol and Endone. 

I now have hope that I will be able to do this. The muscle relaxants have allowed my glutes to relax so hopefully this will now allow the cortisone to finally do it's thing. I'm not expecting a miracle. My number one goal right now is to get my pain under control so that I can start to live again. Right now, something as simple as being able to walk into the supermarket is something that I can't wait to do. 

I love my job, where I work and the people I work with. I run a business and I hate to not be able to do the things I need to do in my business. As much as I love exercise and love to train, this is down lower on the list. But I do know that eventually I will be able to get back to this. The thought of one day, again being able to teach a SHBAM class is something that I am so looking forward to. 

I am crossing fingers and toes and doing everything in my power to sort this out. In case you're wondering, I am still giving my body adequate nutrition through plant based foods and the transition hasn't been as difficult as I once would have thought it could be. Yes, it's a big change, but in my opinion, if it works, it is worth it a million times over. 

Bring on feeling human again!!

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