Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cauda Equina Syndrome and general suckage.

I was never going to write about any of this, but I guess my blog does say; 'Life, living and catching moments inbetween', so here we go.

This, I think, is one of those life/living moments (and it also explains my mammoth absence on the blog/facebook/twitter scene.)

First things first.  I am a very, very, VERY lucky ducker.  I had/have (not sure if once you have it, you always do?...) Cauda Equina Syndrome.  A lotto win in medical terms due to its rarity.  *yay, lucky me.  Because the actual lotto would just be too simple...* :)

A couple of months ago, I started to get back pain.  Nothing thrilling, just the 'presumed' normal, post pregnancy, double buggy pushing, Hell and Back training (& running), mammy of two lifting, backpain tweaks and soreness.  Time went on and it got progressively worse to the point where (lying on the floor making noises that can only be heard in the wild) I decided (loosely translated as 'husband ordered me to') to visit a Chiropractor. 

Now, those that know me, know that I take after my mammy and would literally have to have a severed limb before contemplating a doctor or other medical professional, so for me to agree was a big deal.
Luckily, by my husbands recommendation in the Crossfit world, I discovered an AMAZING chiropractor and ART therapist, who, while fixing my buggered pelvis and muscles, quickly picked up on bigger issues so referred me for an MRI to see what we were dealing with.

Still run of the mill stuff, I had the MRI which showed two bulging disks so I was referred to a Neurologist and got an appointment date.  You wanna see?  Here you go
                                   (please refrain from noticing the 'fatty' layers of white... LOL)

During my 'wait' for my Neurologist appointment, I had another Chiropractor visit at which point she loosely mentioned that if I notice any numbness, to go to A&E.  This nugget securely implanted in my brain, I continued on over the next few days until suddenly I got some serious pain. (Now, I mean- serious pain.  I'm comparing it to childbirth here, people, and at times, Id have chosen childbirth over it any day) so off we went to A&E. 

Ive heard some horror stories about A&E but in all fairness, we were checked in super fast and seen by a nurse.  Soon after, an A&E doctor examined me and, apologising (I was like, what the Hell??? Why is she apologising?) gave me some painkillers and told me unfortunately that was all they could do.  I wasn't sure what to expect anyway, but peace of mind and something to kill the pain was just awesome.  She too mentioned that, if I experienced any numbness, to come back in, so off we went home- me floating on a cloud of pain free smiles clutching my big bag of pain killing prescriptions. 

That night, I did notice some numbness but fobbed it off.  The following morning I went to stand up and I got a shooting pain in my back and it felt like gravity reversed. Pain flipped from upper to lower and over afew minutes numbness started kicking in.  Numb butt cheeks, calves, feet, butt cheeks, thighs... VERY weird sensation so off we went to A&E again.

Above: Nerves of a human body.  Cauda Equina Syndrome is when pressure is applied to the nerves running down the lower spine blocking feeling and control roughly from the waist down.  On a slightly different note- HOW much like plants are we???  Wow!  :)

As luck had it, the same doctor saw me so knew my situation.  She mentioned that she was concerned I may have a condition called 'Cauda equina syndrome' but that I wasn't presenting the 'red flag' signs. (basically, loss of bladder and bowel function... lucky me!) so the consultants were reluctant to follow up. 
(Now, this is where I have to shout from the hilltops "THANK YOU!!!"  to my A&E doctor because she followed her gut and pushed for an MRI which confirmed that I did have Cauda Equina so required immediate surgery avoiding permanent damage of nerves.)


Its been a LONG 8 weeks recovery so far.  I started off with 'typical Irish style' attitude of:
"Ah, shur ill be grand..." to "HHmmmm, this seems to be taking a while..." to "Oh for feck sake... come ON already".
From no feeling at all, to toe wiggling (very slow albeit!) to ankle wiggle to crutches to standing to walking 2 feet to 10 to 100, its all progress -but painstakingly slow progress.  I am an impatient person so 6 weeks waiting to get the OK from the doctor to just 'walk' in the pool was insane and SUCH an anticlimax in the end. 
I have to admit, that first length 'walk' in the pool drew the first self pity tear from my eye.
It was the realisation of how much further I still have to go.  I still have one crutch, one numb ass cheek, partial leg, ankle and foot, and have to wait up to two years for any/all feeling to come back, but whoa, am I lucky.  I have researched what could have been and, holy crap, I am SO thankful.  There are many people out there who weren't as lucky to get emergency surgery as fast as I did and have to deal with lifetime paralysis etc.

This has been a HUGE eye opener.  My 'bucket list' has been scrapped and started again. Silly things that I could have done any time before but 'never had the time to' have gone to the top.  Silly stresses that I worried about, dissolved.  To be able to function and run with my kids.  To be able to bring them hillwalking or sailing (or do those things myself again!), these are the things that are important to me.
Bizarrely enough, the first few on my 'revised' list are:
-Pick up both my kids (individually and together)
-Be able to walk without crutch by February (when I'm going to visit my sister and her family in Seattle!!!  Yeah baby!!!)
-Acrobatic silks (I've always been amazed at how graceful they are however I would realistically resemble a hippo strangling itself on a silk sheet no doubt, but I will still try when I can!
- Climb Carrauntoohil again- The highest mountain in Ireland.  Ive done it the hardest way and the moderate way before this operation- if I could manage ANY way up in the next year I would be SO happy. :)
- Go windsurfing (anywhere, any time, I don't care, I would just love to see could I manage it again.  I do miss it so)
- Go sailing (lasers, Hobie's, and 'big boats)

and the list goes on...

In addition to all of that, I am aiming to get down to my ideal weight to take weight and strain off my spine so have been looking into much more healthy ways of living and eating the last while... I might even start a recipe section to this blog... LOL.  Anyway...

If you have read this far...(fair dues to you! :) )... take the time to review YOUR 'bucket list', because the most simplest of things that you 'dont have time to do' or are 'putting off until next week' might just be the things on the very top of your list some day, so do them now! :)

Ive been meaning to send a Thank you card to the doctor in the A&E in Cork University Hospital, but nothing seems quite enough, so, until I find a card sufficient enough, Dr Emer in CUH A&E, I cant thank you enough for your care or persistence to follow your gut and diagnosis. My family and I cant thank you enough.  I hope this message finds you so you know how much a difference you've made in my/our family's life. 

Sue, my chiropractor- thank you for sorting out my back and giving me the warning signs, of which, I may never have picked up on or reacted as fast. 

My Mum & Dad, thanks for looking after our boys while the madness set in- don't know what we'd have done without you.

Leigh (and your broken foot), Amanda, Kerri, Betty, Piluca, Joan, Ann, Daithi, Morgan, Clair, Córa:- chats, foodstuffs, wine, cards, flowers, positive vibes and general banter. xxx Lifesavers. x

And Dave, hubbie extraordinaire.  No words. xxx

And so I promise I will be back just as soon as I can.  Met Eireann are promising a white Christmas so fingers crossed I shall slap some crampons on this crutch and get some nice shots of Kinsale in all her winter glory. :) 

Look after yourselves. 

Toodles, Jen. xxx


  1. Discovering that you have a Cauda equina syndrome is really scary news. It was a good thing that you have been diagnosed early, and that proper treatments have been given to you. Also, it's good to have specialists on your side who took good care of you until you were full recovered. This definitely saved you from all the major effects that the syndrome may have caused if not immediately cured. Anyway, I hope you’re feeling well now.

    Joan Stevens @ Stringer Chiropractic

    1. Hi Joan,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Yes- it was, looking back on it, a terribly traumatic time. I honestly didn't think it at the time, but it was. I am, with the help of an amazing chiro and ART therapist, nutritionist, and ALOT of hard work, on the road back to full recovery, thank goodness!
      Have you had many CES cases?
      Kind regards,

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi jen how are you keeping? After reading you blog now i feel lucky in my case.after a 2 months mild hip pain which cured by gps treatment,i demand for mri to look at the matter(even gp said no need of mri)i realised that there is a very big disc bulge almost compressing my cauda equina.but i dont have any symptoms.anyway hse took my case as emergency and did microdiscectomy on april9 th.is my decesion to go for surgery was right?i have lots of questions to you regarding recovery.thanx

    1. Hi Manoj,

      Fantastic that you got surgery quickly and are on the road to recovery. :)
      I would be happy to answer any questions you have- just drop me an email (jenconroyphotography@gmail.com) or you can PM me on:

      Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jen-Conroy-Photography/210905662273739)

      Twitter (https://twitter.com/jen_conroy)

      and ill reply as soon as I can.

      Kind regards,

  5. It’s a bit frightening but looking at the positive side, you were diagnosed and hopefully, you’ll get better after every other treatment.


  6. HI jen how are you feeling right now? I hope that you are now fully recovered :) You can do it

  7. HI jen how are you feeling right now? I hope that you are now fully recovered :) You can do it


Follow by Email