Saturday 12 November 2022

Bonkers' neck is on the line, and the importance of keeping your chin up


This post was brought to you very, very slowly by voice recognition and mostly lefthanded editing...

I have been gone awhile. I should be in France this week and instead I am grounded for the foreseeable future.

For my blogging hiatus has nothing to do with a lack of mojo or being adrift in the creative doldrums - a mental state that afflicts bloggers or writers of any kind indeed from time to time - it is rather as a result of a physical problem, namely trapped nerves in my neck which have caused me pain ranging from moderate to just shy of agony for the last five weeks. An MRI scan has revealed a condition called "disc osteophyte complex" involving foraminal narrowing, foramina being little bony tunnels through which the nerves pass. Osteophytes are bony spurs that grow on the edges of vertebrae encroaching on the discs in between and causing compression. They also sprout inside these little tunnels and obstruct the path like a thorny thicket, creating a sort of obstacle course, if you will, for the nerves to bludgeon their way through. 

In all the pictures I have found on the Internet - using only my left hand, you understand, which is the one that is not compromised - osteophytes are depicted as little frilly scalloped edges not unlike coral, and they are always red. This is perhaps to denote inflammation which is what causes them to form in the first place; somewhat counterintuitively you could say, because by growing new bone they are simply making traffic conditions more difficult. The word "traffic" is rather apt in fact, for the biggest nerve involved is called the Supra Scapular Highway. It travels down from the neck and sweeps through the shoulder blade to the top of the shoulder, before running down the arm to the hand. At least I think it does - I daren't research too thoroughly in Google in case I come across any graphic images. In a bid to come to terms with my situation I even gave a couple of the nerves names: Norbert for the big autoroute one (after the French haulage company of that name - Norbert Dentressangle), and Nick for the one below it, because it keeps getting "nicked" as it struggles through the bony forest.

To be fair I can't say it has helped me be reconciled to the cancelling of everything I had planned between now and Christmas as part of my sentence of "complete rest", but it was worth a go. ;)

That said, as a person living on their own it is nigh on impossible to have complete rest or nothing will get done. I have given up driving and have a number of friends kindly shopping for me, but there are still little tasks around the house that I cannot ask people to pop in to do every five minutes. So I am conscious that I may still be harming my nerves a little here and there on a daily basis. I did ask a friend to grind me a week's worth of pepper and salt - which you could say is a first world problem, hehe - but the ability to grind meant a lot to me. I have yet to second anyone into shelling pistachios, but may crack on that one too. My brief attempt at liquidizer goblet-wrangling ended in a lot of pain, so there are no more smoothies in my future for the moment - or pasta, which involves manhandling large saucepans. Or panhandling, even.

There is quite a large aspect of psychological readjustment to be done with an illness like this, including the redefining of one's sense of self: for me this was very tied up in house projects both here and in France, and with my Airbnb hosting, which I've had to put on pause, and also with the band and gigs, the next wave of which is coming up shortly - tantalisingly close geographically in the case of next weekend - but still too far. If anyone else fancies going do let me know!  I have had to let everything go - including the aforementioned trip to France this week - and must try to see this period of near total inactivity as "short term pain for long term gain". For if you stay active at the same level with an injury of any kind you can wind up with chronic complications down the line. The necessity for surgery can also not be excluded. And there is no way I would like to be stuck with this amount of pain on an ongoing basis. The entire upper right quadrant of my body hurts, involving two basic styles of pain: a sort of lumbar puncture feeling crossed with a malevolently twisting apple corer in my neck, supplemented by a common or garden hot burning sensation everywhere else. 


The osteopath who is treating me described this as a one-time window of opportunity to heal naturally. You could liken it perhaps to what the police call the "Golden Hours" ie the 48-hour period following a child's disappearance beyond which timeframe the chances rise dramatically that the child will turn up dead if it does at all. I don't wish to apply the analogy too slavishly because this is not a life-threatening condition, but for the sake of good order my friend who is a funeral celebrant urged me most vociferously not to die, because she has an unusually heavy workload at the moment.

Then even if the problem goes away by and by - as I am very much hoping it will - through the usual conservative measures of ice / heat / rest / medication / avoiding too much stimulation of the Central Nervous System aka "excessive firing of excitatory neurotransmitters" by any means whatsoever, including nice activities like a catch up with friends, there is always the chance that I could trigger a similar episode in the future because the cramped conditions in my foramina remain...

Now there are a few not wholly negative things about my situation: I can watch "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" without it even being a guilty pleasure; I may be unable to write my usual 70 plus Christmas cards because I have lost the grip in my right hand for the moment, and thirdly... there was a third one, but my medication-induced brain fog has intervened.

A word on Truffle in all of this: she has been very supportive, for due to my intolerance of various types of medication I had been put on I had several periods of a sick headache lasting up to four days, and behaved out of character, spending most of my time in bed drifting in and out of a light and unrestful sleep. The cat would regularly come and squat on my windpipe and look at me solicitously, rubbing her cheek against mine and occasionally licking it. At other times I am sure I caught an expression of alarm on her face as though she was starting to doubt the long-term viability of her customary food source.

Strangely, you might think, I have worn perfume over this past month...almost exclusively one which Rachael Potts gave to me - Opoponax by Les Nereides. I find its vanillic, resinous drydown very comforting, and am a huge lover of myrrh as you know. I will have drained it soon and must go in search of something else in my collection with the same qualities.

Head: Orange peels, Bergamot.
Heart: Jasmine from Grasse, Hawthorn, Sandalwood.
Base: Myrrh, Bourbon Vanilla, Benjoin, Amber.

I had better wrap up here because I am straying into doing tiny bits of editing with my right hand too, and every tap with the finger is an added strain on Norbert and Nick. But I would like to say in closing that I really appreciate the support of family and friends, both moral and practical eg giving me lifts to medical appointments, doing shopping as I say, or things that are more necessary than you might imagine like testing the fire alarms regularly, so they don't start their piteous bleeping routine in the night because the battery is on the blink, which I would be unable to make stop. I could probably wield the testing pole in my good hand but I'm not supposed to look up as much as would be required - which brings me neatly back to the bit in the title about the correct positioning of one's chin. There's up, and then there's too up.

Please don't feel any need to comment because I can't type replies easily. There is no voice recognition on my laptop and the facility is pretty sketchy at the best of times. Here is one of its more amusing manglings and there are myriad examples every day. 

"Hope the rest of your week is Morecambe that should be karma that should be more calm."

PS It was my 13th blog anniversary at the end of October, but the date was rather overtaken by events.
PPS I will be back!


Sophie said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this. I've been reading your blog for years and I don't usually comment, but I just wanted to say that I wish you well and hope for your speediest recovery. Please do all you need to take care of yourself and rest.

Almost two years ago now I was diagnosed with a very scary, very rare respiratory disease. A year and a half ago I had life-saving surgery for it. Two thirds of people with my condition need another airway surgery within two years of their first one, and most ultimately go through a long series of surgeries to fight it back but never cure it.

I'm telling this story to say that, with medicine and management and lots of practice being patient with myself, I have been feeling alright -- not optimal, not like before I ever got sick, but largely well and able to breathe and function -- since my surgery. And it doesn't look like I'm going to need another one any time soon, knock on wood.

Being able to breathe properly for the first time in years is part of what re-kick-started my dormant interest in fragrance. It is such a beautiful thing to be alive and breathing and to be able to freely luxuriate in scent on the air.

All this is to say that recovery and wellness are possible for all sorts of things, even when it looks unlikely. I really hope that you heal completely and swiftly in this critical period and feel at least a bit better soon. I am glad to hear you have friends helping you. Please get lots of rest and be gentle with yourself, and don't worry about us, humble readers of your blog. We'll be glad to see you back whenever you can be.

teardrop said...

Oh dear Vanessa, that sounds dreadful! Wishing you a complete recovery & glad you have good friends around to help you out. And don't feel you have to reply to any comments, I'm sure there are plenty of us who just want you to know we'll still be here whenever you're able to resume blogging. Although I am curious as to what "the third thing" is! Maybe this is a good time to watch any movies you've been meaning to see, or catch up on some reading? Do give Truffle a (very careful) snuggle from me, & look after yourself.

teardrop said...

By the way, I have a bottle of Les Nereides' Opoponax, bought at a bargain price from TK Maxx some years ago, when it was still called Imperial Opoponax, & it has those little cherubs on the label. I think it's a great choice for a comfort scent, & it makes a lovely winter warmer on dark, damp days. Labdanum heaven!

Catlady1649 said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your very painful condition. I have mobility problems and know how difficult it is when you live alone. I do have a lot of help from my family . Try to get as much rest as you can

Anonymous said...

I really feel for you - please get better very, very soon. Wish I could wave a magic wand for you.

The only tip I have is that pistachios can be bought already shelled ...


Anonymous said...

Firstly, please don’t worry about replying.

Secondly, I am so sorry to hear that you have been so unwell, and that the imposed rest sounds like a very sensible and wise thing to do. Thinking of you and hope that you are making speedy recovery!


Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of a friend, This Doth Suck.

Perhaps you can also listen to podcasts? During lockdown "All About Agatha" and others. made me feel a little less isolated.

All the best for a full recovery...AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hello everyone,

I hope you don't mind my replying to all your comments in one go, but even typing with my good hand hurts my neck(!). I was very touched by your good wishes, suggestions, and also by Sophie's account of her recovery from serious illness - you have collectively given me the impetus to keep on focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel...

Vanessa said...

PS I still haven't remembered the "third thing".

Portia said...

Don't reply Vanessa
Popping by to say, "Shit! It all sounds bloody awful. Get well quick."
Portia xx

Carol said...

sending love!! and please don't reply!!

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

Belatedly thanking you for your get well wishes!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Love to you too - appreciated your dropping me a line and sorry for not replying sooner.