In talking to others about chronic pain and chronic illness, there is one theme in particular that keeps coming up. The idea that being not believed is a huge part of the problem. Having dealt with both mental illness and chronic pain over the last few years, I’m all down with the invisible illness speak. I’m on my way to gaining a medical degree through experience hours alone. It can be lonely, at times, being in this bubble where everything seems alright when it isn’t. Not being believed, or being told that it’s in my head, has been a big part of that.
The news came to the fore yesterday that the new National Maternity Hospital was to be placed under the ownership of the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters of Charity is a religious group who in the past were one of the groups who ran the Magdalene Asylums. Under their watch, terrible abuses were carried out on mothers and children alike. In State redress schemes since the news broke of what went on inside these Mother and Baby Homes, the Sisters of Charity have neglected to pay their fair share. In 2013 the Sisters of Charity, along with the three other religious congregations which managed Magdalene laundries, announced that they would not be making any contribution to the State redress scheme for women who had been in the laundries. The Sisters of Charity were involved in five industrial schools – including St Joseph’s and St Patrick’s, Kilkenny and Madonna House in Dublin. They were party to a €128m redress scheme with the State in 2002 for child abuse which took place. According to a December 2016 report from the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Sisters of Charity offered €5m towards the redress scheme – but have only paid €2m. They are currently in debt to the state, and the victims as a result, to the tune of 3 million. So, gifting them a hospital sounds par for the course, right? Only in Ireland.
A picture tells 1000 words, right? With some topics that can be hard to discuss properly, pictures and memes can do a lot of the talking. This is definitely something I’ve found with chronic pain and mental illness – it’s easier to laugh from the outside than talk from the inside. I follow a lot of other Chronic Illness warriors on social media, Instagram in particular. Their sharing of memes and funny pictures, as well as inspiring quotes, keeps me going on rough days. I share them with fellow pain sufferer friends. As well as telling 1000 words, they open up conversation lines in ways that we normally can’t. So I’ve grouped together a few to give as examples of memes that describe life with chronic pain. If you’re a sufferer, or love someone who is, then you may relate.
The word “Pacing” has come to mean something different to me since being introduced to the Chronic Pain community. Prior to that, I had linked it very much so with parenting – pacing up and down corridors waiting for news, pacing up and down the house with a crying infant. In the chronic pain/illness world however, pacing is a coping strategy, basically “to pace yourself”. It’s a skill that can be quite difficult to get the hang of. In essence, you find out what your limit is, and then figure out your schedule to what you can do.
And then parenting comes along. Boom. My toddler DOES NOT CARE for pacing. Parenting and pacing are not the easiest of combinations to master.
In Ireland, women aged between 25 and 60 are invited to obtain a cervical smear once every three years. This screening process, run by Cervical Check from the HSE, was put in place to combat the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer. I’ve written recently about the importance of getting a regular smear test to ensure you’re healthy. However, what happens if it doesn’t come back with a clean bill of health? What if your cervical smear comes back showing abnormalities? What does a referral for a colposcopy mean? It can be easy to panic and assume “Oh god, it’s cancer, it’s definitely cancer”, but that’s not the case. Here’s a look at what those abnormal results can indicate, and how they’re treated afterwards.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from January 22-28th. It’s one of those big scary C’s that we don’t talk enough about. The words “Mortality rate” and “most common cancer” are bandied about, but as a society, we seem to stick our fingers in our ears and hum. Much has been done on this in recent years, but we’ve a long way to go.
I’ve been down this road before, I know. This is not my first rodeo with battling with my weight. I’ve documented on this blog my previous foray into Weight Watchers after the birth of E, but after a few months where I had lost weight, I was bored, I fell off the wagon, I vowed to never eat slimbo breads again. In the mean time, medication changes and increased pain causing less ability to exercise. With my back injury, I’m not really able to do much workout things at the moment – and classes like Zumba are a long way down the road. To be fair, the chocolate biscuit addiction was of my own accord, as was the disaster that was mixing the child’s birthday (multiple cakes) and Easter weekend. Weight piled back on. However, I had an epiphany in the last two weeks where I decided that this was it, I was setting myself a goal of not being this way by the time I turn 25 in September. So off I headed to my local Slimming World, and here’s how I got on.
When I was pregnant, I saw a lot of my doctors thanks to my blood pressure and I not getting along. In the later stages of my pregnancy, the words “pre-eclampsia” were bandied about a bit. It was discussed at length as to whether or not specific results that day indicated if I did or didn’t have it, or if it seemed likely I would. Nobody sounded very happy about the possibility so I for sure knew it wasn’t a good thing. However, there was little enough information being sent my way about it which led me to googling what it could possibly mean.
For a pregnant lady whose blood pressure was already high, googling may not have been the best idea. There’s a lot of information out there online. In particular, information in well meaning forums where pregnant women and mothers discuss different symptoms and features of pregnancy, birth and beyond. A lot of this can be misleading, or more frightening than it should be.
So, for the sake of my past self who was terrified of what this diagnosis could mean for me and my baby (thank you Downton Abbey), here is a No Nonsense Intro to Pre-Eclampsia – hopefully if you’re reading this due to a similar Google search, it will allay some of your fears. While it is a very serious condition which can be very dangerous if not managed correctly, it is also key to keep in mind that when it is caught in time, which is the majority of cases in modern Ireland, mother and baby get through it healthily and happily.