My life was full of dreams and aspirations; a precious little bucket list of things like hiking Machu Picchu and surfing in Hawaii. But that all changed in the blink of an eye when I walked into the Neurologist’s room and was diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy. This disease isn’t necessarily life threatening, but for me it threatened to take away the life I had so haphazardly wasted and all the adventures I naively assumed I had time for.
So, what exactly is Peripheral Neuropathy? For me it manifests itself in constant pain shooting down my legs; think the sensation of ants biting you all over, constant migraines, with one lasting for 45 days. Both my feet are almost completely numb, and my right hand is heading in the same direction.
The diagnosis left me feeling very conflicted as it answered so many questions but brought up so many more. I was constantly tripping over but had put it down to clumsiness, I hadn’t realised how much mobility I’d lost due to the muscle wasting in my leg and episodes of foot drop. This diagnosis gave me some relief that there was an explanation for it all, but also made me wonder what was in store for the future. At this time I was 37 years old and I came to the realisation it was only going to get worse from here on out.
I had to quit dancing which had always kept me fit physically and mentally so I gained weight and my mental health took a beating too. At the time I was working as a caseworker in aged care and I began to worry that my very livelihood would also be in jeopardy. I began hydrotherapy and did mild exercise every day, including a quarter of a lap of the pool.
The next step for me was to see an orthotist, and he got me an Orthosis (leg brace) to help me stay upright, but this necessary device led to more personal problems that I couldn’t have anticipated. I went to buy some shoes to accommodate the new part of me, but there isn’t a lot that fits like a jogger to hold in a brace, so my confidence just continued to spiral downward. No more skirts and heels; the simple pleasures I was used to.