With hindsight I’d been slipping discs in my lower back since the first year of secondary school. Before that I’d always had trouble sitting cross-legged, like they make you do every assembly, every school play, every time more than 2 or 3 small people are gathered together in the name of boredom in a primary school. It was excruciatingly painful. I had no idea how anyone else could manage to sit in that position without constantly moving to find a more comfortable position or without crying with pain. I still don’t. To me it represents torture. Not that I complained. Or at least, not often. I remember telling my mother that it really hurt but she told me to quit whinging, I must be doing it wrong or be just whinging over nothing. So I figured I must be the world’s biggest wimp and just really, really bad at sitting on a floor and shut up about it. By way of contrast I could touch my toes really easily. Hands flat on the floor easily. I was told I was hypermobile, and it was generally seen as a really cool thing, and not a potential problem for me at all. My mother was quite competitive about it, in fact, and was at great pains to demonstrate I wasn’t nearly as hypermobile as she was.
Moving on to secondary school and I remember trying to sit down at a table in the library. I got stuck about halfway down. Literally unable to move. I couldn’t stand back up, I couldn’t sit down. The pain was like an iron bar blocking progress. Eventually I figured that if someone moved the chair out from behind me and support me as I moved we might get somewhere, so one of my friends came over to help and slowly, eventually, I managed to creak back into a vaguely upright position. The pain was like someone had buried an axe in my lower spine, but I limped through the rest of the day, got home, and collapsed on the floor. It didn’t even occur to me to go get medical help. I just thought I was being a wuss again, and besides, the school nurses weren’t exactly known for being sympathetic when you had a real problem, so why bother?
When my mother got home she found me on the floor and by now I thought perhaps I ought to get some help, but even though I asked her to take me to the GP she refused. I was too young to have back problems, you see. I was just a wimp. So this kind of thing happened probably about once a year or so for the next few years, until I got married and got pregnant. I was terrified of childbirth. How on earth will I take the pain, I thought? Will my dodgy joints be able to cope? I remember trying to discuss the latter with a midwife but again, she brushed it all off. It’ll be fine, she said. The Relaxin will kick in and all will be well. Again, I’m being a wuss and worrying over nothing, I thought. Perhaps everyone has this and just gets on with it?
Which was great until I ended up being completely unable to walk for three days during pregnancy. But I just stayed in the house until it passed, so no one really knew. Why bother anyone? So, anyway, the birth was OK, and not anywhere near as painful as I had feared. The pain did get very bad at one point, but not for very long. It turned out that I could pop babies out really fast – yay!
So move on another few years and by this time I’ve had three children and the bad back incidents have increased to an average of three times a year. I just deal with it though, nothing gets better but it’s not getting much worse either. I’ve had a few trips to GPs, mainly to get painkillers, but occasionally I ask for an x-ray or something so we can see what’s causing the problem. After over two decades of this I’m getting fairly fed up and would like to know if there’s anything else that could be done, but because of my age (I’m still in my 30s at this point) it’s decided (not by me) that it’s probably a muscular problem and an x-ray wouldn’t show anything. Back to being a wuss, I guess. Hey ho. The GP was more than happy to prescribe boxes of co-proxamol in boxes of 100 at the time though.
Then our washing machine broke, and it took a very, very long time to fix it. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried washing rugby kit by hand, or a kingsize duvet cover, but you only try it once. Our nearest laundrette back then was a quick 9 and a half mile drive away, so I’d load laundry and kids in the car, and wet laundry and kids back again so we could dry it all at home. Wet laundry is really heavy. Especially when it’s heavy duty rugby kit. My car didn’t have a remote-opening boot, so I’d have to put the basket on the ground to unlock the car and get the kids in, then go to the back, open the boot and stow the baskets. After 6 weeks of lift, twist around, put down, shuffle to fit heavy baskets, my back finally went ping.
If I thought the pain of previous slipped discs was bad, this was many, many times worse. I lost all use of my left leg. How I managed to drive home I’m not entirely sure, but I did. Using the clutch was almost unbearably painful. So that was it, back well and truly buggered. Oh, I perhaps should have mentioned my husband’s darling employer had him flying out to Barcelona first thing every Monday (leaving the house at 03;30) and only returning late on Friday. Every blimming week. And we live in a rural area with no public transport, so if you want to get somewhere it’s drive or hike at least three miles over fields and stiles. So all those co-proxamol I had? I could only take them at weekends when I didn’t have to drive. Yes, quite. Up shit creek with no paddle.