Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?


I am not usually one to be scared of things, I think spiders are cute, can handle heights reasonably well, no sign of a boogeyman in the darkness under my bed. There is only one thing that scares the living daylights out of me and that is gigantic huge human-operated machines, such as trucks and diggers. I will cycle a whole block out of my way to avoid having to pass road works, I physically cower down while overtaking trucks in my tiny car. I think it’s pretty logical, people make mistakes, even people who operate huge machinery, one bad day, one hangover, one text message and they could just chop your head off. Even thinking about it now makes me feel like there is a cement block on my chest so I’m gonna change the topic if that’s OK with you.

The reason I bring it up is because today I feel genuinely scared for the first time in a long time. Later today I will go to the University Hospital of Antwerp to get four injections of painkillers in my back. Again, I’m normally fine with all kinds of medical situations, it’s always a bit exciting to be the center of attention and to be surrounded by people who you know are doing their best to make you feel better. Before you start pointing out my chronic need for attention, don’t worry, I am well aware, it is highlighted daily by my significant other! But that is a story for another day.

To fill in the background a bit, don’t worry I’ll be quick… I have had pain in my lower back on and off for years now, ranging from weeks of not being able to stand straight to slight discomfort with certain movements. I have always attributed it to the damage caused by sitting all day and went on with my life, ignoring it. Following a minor traffic collision incident a few months ago my back issues flared up worse than ever so I decided to do something about it.


An MRI, kinesiologist, osteopath and a neurosurgeon later here I am with an appointment for The Pain Clinic this afternoon. (Sounds lovely doesn’t it?) The recurring theme in their feedback seemed to be that this kind of problem is very common but they had never seen it in someone my age. I always knew I was wise beyond my years! One of the doctors mentioned that the damage to my back could only have been caused by a serious fall or impact, for example if someone pulled a chair out from under me and I landed on my arse on the ground. So I started to search my awfully failing memory to try to pinpoint the moment is all started. I already had back problems when I sat my final exams in high-school, I know that because my GP at the time misdiagnosed it as a kidney infection. #eyeroll If I go back further I remember commenting to a friend that I couldn’t understand how the cool guys at the time sat slouched with their back bent in the sofa. I psychically couldn’t sit like that because my lower back didn’t bend and hurt when I tried. So I guess I already had the issue then, and that was 20 years ago (being able to say that I remember something from 20 years ago makes me feel very very old). Going back to the summer before that, the only thing I can think of that could have caused it and was as dramatic as the doc suggested was one time my butt collided with a tap. I was at the pool with my sisters and some friends and when getting ready to go home, I was in the shower with my sister and another girlfriend, all with our swimming togs still on of course, we were brought up in Ireland you know! The shower had a tap lower down to wash your feet, so when my friend jokingly pulled my swimsuit down, I hunched quickly to cover myself and butt met tap in a very sudden encounter. The wind was knocked out of me and I couldn’t breathe or move for several minutes. Could that have been it? Could that be the reason? Of course it’s just an exercise in curiosity, I’m not looking for anyone to blame, it also has a lot to do with genetics according to the docs, and if I look at my family history of back issues this is certainly true.

So here I am, feeling scared half to death and I don’t really understand why. Maybe because everyone always says that the back is such a delicate and dangerous thing, maybe because the procedure is not a treatment, it is just something that will ‘possibly’ provide some pain relief. Maybe because I managed to get through the hell of giving birth without an epidural three years ago and now I’m ending up getting one anyway. Maybe because a friend who had her baby a month ago is still suffering from one non-functioning leg due to her epidural.

On the other hand, I can no longer imagine how it feels to be pain-free, to sleep a whole night without waking several times in agony, to lift my son in my arms when he runs to me, to go back to my wonderful yoga class, to be able to concentrate on my job without being distracted by trying to find any position that is a bit less painful than the previous one.

So here I go, wish me luck…

Update from later in the day: It really hurt and I cried like a little baby.



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