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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Just 6 Weeks Less-Abled : S + 4 | Living & re-learning

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Living and re-learning.

Just 6 weeks less-abled. That's all. For so very many people with all kinds of less-abledness there is no end. It's struck me just now as I was making coffee ... it is odd, I do not include myself in this group and yet ... I am in there. Of course I am. My prosthetic mesh abdominal wall is here to stay and so are all the gifts it brings but I find it so hard to even write that so will all its limitations remain with me. Without this mesh I would never be able to do what I do now. And yet, still, 15 years after the surgery to implant it people still 'commiserate' with me, for want of a better word. What a shame, they say, that you had to stop doing so many things you loved.

Please don't. It is not a shame. I have the blessing of having been able to do so very many things. To scuba dive in some of the world's most challenging conditions that are found here in the UK and also to dive in what some would say are the world's most stunning waters down on the equator in the Maldives, to name just two. There are so many more and I am very blessed indeed. Yes, of course, I can no longer dive - the mesh doesn't compress. I could surf or sea kayak - in fact, I sea kayaked for 3 days in Doubtful Sound in New Zealand just 9 months after the mesh surgery. It was probably extremely foolish but I needed to do it. Just once. To prove to myself that I could. And what a place for my last paddle, just as my last dive was in amongst the biggest group of manta rays I have ever seen, I choose not surf or kayak anymore to in order to preserve the integrity of my the mesh however I do still ride my bike up some of the world's most revered & feared mountains and across stunning moorland and coastal scenery;  I can still walk over gentle terrain. Even with this daft shoe on I can still hobble about the house a bit with Fred and Ginger for stability. I can't lift anything more than 5 kgs and this very much limits work I am able to do thus and my ability to earn a living. Especially recently. However it's not the end of the world. There are very many good things and it is these that I focus on. I focus on 'can' not cannot.' I'm not a saint and it is not always easy and yes, I get very down sometimes, especially when I allow myself to get scared, like now when work is not coming in for example. But that is only human, isn't it?

Sorry to rant a bit. Just needed to get that off my chest.

I wrote a couple of days ago about pain. About how we cannot recall its intensity and how it felt. Well, in a moment of revelation yesterday as I was trying to get the LimbO over my boot without causing any more pain it came to me. Of course I have experience of broken bones! I broke my nose in South Africa almost 40 years ago. As I write this I can see myself falling. I had surgery immediately post-accident to try and get what used to be a very petite, upturned nose back into some semblance of order. I can see in my mind's eye the view from my bed as I looked around myself in hospital. I was the only lady in my 4 bed ward who'd had emergency trauma nose surgery. The other women had black and blue faces due to elective plastic surgery. I remember thinking to myself, very judgmentally I admit, why on earth would anyone go through this amount of pain because of vanity? I can recall how much pain I was in but I cannot recreate how it felt, I just remember it was there. I went back to the same hospital a year later for further surgery in an attempt to improve my ability to breathe. It worked to a degree but I was told then I would need a third surgery. I never went back. I could not face the pain of the surgeon re-breaking my nose and drilling bits away, so my nose is still lumpy and crooked and I only take in air through one nostril but that's just fine by me. It was all a horrible and extremely painful experience and yet when I was thinking about this op on my foot and how I would engage with the pain I had forgotten all this business with my nose. My subconscious had buried the memory that deep.

Amazing things, brains, aren't they?

I am pleased to report my friend safely delivered the loo seat yesterday and, with a bit of shenanigans, a sprinkling of laughter, shouted instructions from me in the kitchen and the muscle of another dear friend, the heaviest, most complicated-to-fix loo seat is now firmly fixed and looking very smart. And I am no longer in fear of getting 'bitten' on the thigh! Small mercies!

I have started doing lymphatic drainage and some deeper massage on my leg. I bought some Gingiber Cassimanus essential oil last week; Phrai, as it is known in Thailand which is where I first encountered it 30 years ago. The oil is made from the root of this plant and I first experienced it's incredible anti-inflammatory properties when I had my first Thai massage as the root is one of the herbs that is in the hot poultice used in this centuries-old treatment. Inflammation is not my best friend at the moment hence having to keep my foot elevated except when getting a drink, or some food or having a quick shower. I was told by the first foot specialist I saw that the more I kept my foot up and kept swelling to a minimum the less the pain was be ... and he was spot on, I can promise you. Having practised as an aromatherapist and massage therapist for a long time I really enjoy being able to treat myself. It is yet another way I can take responsibility for my healing.

I was surprised this morning when I sat on my lovely new loo seat and put my foot on the side of the bath how much muscle wastage has happened already. In just a scant few days. I have muscular legs - a lifetime of being a cyclist and walker, I guess. My left calf today is more slender than the right, and even that one is smaller than usual. Even more noticeable in my left calf is the 'texture' of the muscle. It feels so fluid. Yes, I think fluid is a more accurate word than soft. It's quite peculiar. Now, intellectually I know this happens and I know why. I have felt it on others. it's just very odd to feel it on myself. Today's task is research to see how I can limit this atrophy without endangering my toe.

I guess at the heart of these ramblings today is assumption. It is easy to think that those who are less physically able lead a less full-filled life and it is all too easy to sit in a hospital bed and think that vanity is the only reason someone would have very painful surgery through choice when there are a myriad of other reasons why.

I am very grateful for having yet another opportunity in my life to really think about such things again. It is also very humbling having to learn to do so many everyday things I take for granted a completely different way. It is eye-opening and challenging. And it is deepening even more my respect for my body and all that the sum of the chemical soup of its atoms allows me to do.

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