A new beginning...
A year ago today I started my journey. A year ago today was the defining day. A year ago today I had my operation.
After a long battle with significant ups and downs the decision was made to operate on my neck and shoulder. For 18 months previously I had slowly lost sensation in my left arm; the symptoms became progressively worse and unsuccessful physio attempts left surgery as the only option. I hadn't appreciated until after the operation the amount of pain I was in daily, and just what an impact thoracic outlet syndrome was having on my life. I couldn't grip, I couldn't coordinate, I couldn't feel anything hot/ cold/ soft/ rough - everything was a blur. Even resting my arm on a desk or a chair was excruciating.
I was prepped and primed ready for the op; the consultants had explained the risks in gloriously gory detail. You take in their words just as you do with the flight attendants during the safety checks, you smile and nod. I went in to the operation with the unyielding belief that when I woke up everything would be fine. Instantly. I expected so much, but was so unprepared.
I will never forgetting waking up; thanks to a heady cocktail of general anesthetic and morphine, I sobbed. The consultants and nurses were hovering around packing me in heat blankets, offering calming words. I could feel the blanket beneath my arm. Taking a corner between my fingers, I could grip it. I could feel the texture of the weave, the loose fibers, the softness. I sobbed with gratitude and relief. I didn't need to be told; I knew the operation was a huge success.
It took me all of a few hours to realise something had gone wrong during the operation. The nurses resisted my requests for a mirror so I could see the "key hole" entry points. My chest drain was filling at an alarming rate and I was exhausted. I knew the op would take it out of me, but the reassurances were that I would be in hospital a couple of days and back at work within a couple of weeks.
After the drain started kicking out chyle (lymph fluid) it was confirmed that my lymph drain had been compromised. My heart rate was sky high and I couldn't breath properly. I relied on the nurses for everything, and I apologies for not being the best patient. I was determined to get out of bed, so convinced that despite being kept on the high dependency ward I would be going home. The chest drain overflowed so many times I lost count, and I was weirdly embarrassed. I think I went through every emotion possible, but I mainly felt angry. Really angry. I had fully believed I would have the op and everything would be just fine.
I was eventually released after nearly two weeks. The scar was huge, all the way round the left side of my neck. With all of the fluid it was so swollen and angry. The wound split several times due to the pressure. And I was utterly miserable. I couldn't hold on to the fact I could use my left arm again, I was so engrossed in the selfishness of self pity.
I locked myself in a battle. I battled with the doctors; why did I feel so ill? I battled with myself. I didn't rest, I started working from home straight away, I did all the things I shouldn't have; lifting things, going to work, not resting. I still believed everything would be fine if I just carried on. I researched what was happening to me. I wanted answers but more than anything I wanted someone to blame. I refused any help.
I pushed everyone away, I lost friends and loved ones and I don't blame anyone now, I was vile. We were on different journeys and that is ok.
Eventually it was discovered something had happened, there will never be a conclusive answer, or even a reason but somewhere between the op, the damage to the lymph drain, the subsequent pulmonary effusion and the clot scare my heart wasn't working properly. I had been running at at a rate of 140bpm and nothing was healing properly.
I felt vindicated but I felt such a sense of loss. My unwavering belief that I would wake up from the op completely fixed was shattered.
A close friend pushed me to try something different, something I could pour my frustrations in to, that I could use to turn the negativity around. This dear friend reintroduced me to art.
Art for me was the turning point, the new beginning. I could channel my emotions, loose myself in a colourful world of paint and texture. Devouring courses, videos, magazines I had finally been given something that gave me focus. I enrolled on Wanderlust 2016 with Everything Art and every week had a new project to work on.
I decided to become a Powertex Tutor, I wanted to teach others and to share the wonderful world that had opened up to me.
A year on and so much has changed, I saved and brought my first house, I have let go of the why's/ what if's/ how's. I have been on a journey, and learnt so much about me as a person and although I'm not "fixed" I'm in a much better place. I have learnt valuable lessons in just what is important and that health comes first. If anyone were to ask "would you do anything differently?" I would answer no, I wouldn't change a thing.
I have started this blog to introduce you to my work and to share my Powertex workshop dates. If you are interested in further information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for joining me on this journey!