2011 has been a very difficult year for me because of the extreme levels of pain I have experienced in coming off morphine, but somehow I have managed to have more victory in my life this year than in any of the past 10 years.
Coming off morphine in February was a wonderful accomplishment after withdrawing from it since October 2008. It has been a hard road coming off it and I felt such a great sense of victory on the one hand. However, on the other hand it has meant an extreme rise in my pain levels.
In September, after 10 months of desperately hoping I was going to be able to have one of the two types of surgery to potentially relieve my pain I was told that it was just too risky and wasn’t going to happen. Both of the surgeries had the potential to seriously set me back both physically and cognitively and my doctors weren’t prepared to take that risk. Following the final appointment when I found that out I wouldn’t Ibe having any operation I was utterly devastated, but I came to a turning point with a realisation which I wrote down.
“Every time I go to an oncology appointment
There is a waiting room full
Full of people who would do anything
To have what I have had
Seventeen years of life after diagnosis of a brain tumour
No life expectancy was given to me
For that I am extremely glad
As there is no way the doctors could have foreseen
Just how long this would all go on:
Side-effects from drugs
Long term effects of neurosurgery
10 years with a fogged brain
17 years of LIFE
Is what I have been given
A gift that every one of those patients
In the oncology waiting room
Would do anything to have."
So even though I have been left with the daily physical struggle of pain, I have also been left with a deep sense of gratitude.
In reaccepting that the pain was here for good I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to let it hold me back from living anymore. Obviously there are certain things I cannot do, but there were also too many things in my brain that had “I can’t” sign posted before them. In September I decided to challenge those statements.
In late September, while on holiday in Northland, I went tramping for the first time in 15 years. Then in November I travelled independently for the first time in 10 years. These may sound like very small accomplishments to a person who has a body that functions normally but my pain and levels of weakness have been so extreme over the past 10 years that neither tramping nor travelling independently have been a remote option for me.
For many years the verse Philippians 4 : 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” has played a large role in my life, especially in working out each day and losing 53kg between 2006 and 2009. But this year I have had to speak this scripture to myself as an affirmation to keep me going and to give me the strength to persevere and get through each day. It has become my mantra and when the pain has intensified, I have sung this to myself with a passion and feel as though I truly have gained strength in doing so and have overcome the mental block of this pain. This doesn’t mean that it makes the reality of pain any less, but rather that I now know that I can do all that I need to do in life through locking into God’s strength. There is now nothing that I will not try as I step into this new year of life.