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The Worst Day – Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Headaches.

July 16, 2017

I normally keep this blog for the good things, I’ve said a lot that its my happy place and rather than needing to include all the stuff from the real world, it’s ok for it to be all about baking and dresses and pretty places and everything thats nice and positive in life. That doesn’t mean I haven’t written about the shit stuff, often when I’ve had a bad day I will write about it, but its not stuff that I would publish on here. I’m quite a private person, so the stuff that makes it onto the internet is usually just the stuff that I don’t mind other people being able to see.

But I do want to write about Friday, because I actually think it was a big thing that I want people to know about and also because it taught me a few life lessons and things I would do differently in the future.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I got a very bad headache, we’re not talking a normal headache that goes away with a paracetamol, it was really bad. I instantly put it down to not enough sleep and too much screen time. I battled through and got on with it. Really I should have picked up that its not right to have a headache that bad, that taking pain killers doesn’t help. But I’m so bad at looking after myself that I just tried my best to battle through and continue as normal. I’m a busy work at home mum, I don’t have time to be ill!

So the headache came back on and off over the last fortnight and I assumed as my eyes were tired that I had eye strain and booked an opticians appointment. The part of this that I’m most ashamed to admit is that I don’t think I’ve had an eye test since I was about 16. I have never had any problems with my eyesight and although I am well aware that it’s important to go anyway, I just never got round to it. I get pretty bad anxiety when it comes to making appointments and medical stuff in general it would take something pretty bad for me to go to the doctor or dentist, something that after this I will need to address.

So I went to the opticians expecting to need reading glasses and that to be that. At first everything seemed normal, I had all the usual tests, was told that my eyesight seemed fine and then the optician said she needed a second opinion on something and left to get her senior colleague. She then looked at my eyes and told the original colleague that what she could see wasn’t Ok. They then told me that they were going to ring the eye department at my local hospital and that I needed to go there immediately. She explained that my optic nerves didn’t look right and she showed me a picture of mine compared to normal ones. I’m not medically trained so I can’t explain in detail, but they looked completely different. She explained that this is a sign of pressure in the brain and that it was urgent that I saw a doctor. At this point I was on my own in a high street opticians and how I stayed calm I really don’t know. As soon as I’d left I burst into tears and called Rob, walking down the high street to my car with tears rolling down my face and a feeling of absolute terror was one of the most awful moments of my life.

I rushed home to get Rob who drove me to the hospital. I was given a quick consultation with the nurse who put special eye drops in for me. These dilate your pupils for a few hours, so they can see into your eye. I was then given an eye scan and had to wait to see the doctor. Waiting was hard. I already knew that things weren’t good as I’d seen the reaction of the opticians and had seen the images of the eye myself. So I wasn’t expecting good news. Rob then had to leave to pick up the kids so I was just sitting there on my own running through everything in my head.

When I went in to the doctor he had another quick look inside my eyes. He then pushed the machine to one side and told me that it’s really not good to have a combination of severe headache and for my optic nerves to look like that, especially as I had been like this for two weeks. He explained that the concern was that there was a brain tumour or bleed causing pressure to the optic nerves. He was so kind and just took my hand while I cried. A lovely nurse came in and hugged me. I sat quietly crying while the doctor made phone calls and got me booked in for an urgent CT scan. He gave me a lolly pop, which was for some reason really comforting. All I could think about was that I was going to die and leave Rob without a wife and my kids without their mother and that is one of the most horrible things ever. The doctor asked if I wanted to wait outside while he made phone calls, but to be honest I was well aware of the realities of the situation so I stayed there.

The worst part of all of this was what was going on in my head. I’m naturally very optimistic, so I kept telling myself that I would be OK, but then reality hit and I thought about how concerned everyone was and that terrified me. Everyone was preparing for bad news and I just sat there thinking about my kids and silently crying. It was awful.

So then the doctor took me to the CT scan department and I waited around half an hour for the scan. The waiting was the worst part, because of everything going through my head. I just tried to stay calm and every time I got myself calmed down the fear hit me again. When I got called through for the scan I completely broke down and the lovely lady, really helped and talked to me for a minute. As I had to stay completely still for the scan, I used every ounce of strength I could muster to centre myself and stay calm. I then prayed harder than I ever have in my life for this to be OK, for me to not have to leave my kids. I managed to stay completely still throughout the scan. I couldn’t tell you much about it as I was so focussed on staying calm and not moving.

I then went back down to the doctor and waited for the results to come through. This all happened amazingly quickly and I just sat there waiting while he phoned someone and asked the results to be sent through, the scan details popped up on his screen and he looked at them for a minute, he then jumped up and just hugged me and gave me a high five, he looked more relived than you can possibly imagine.

So after all that fear, there was nothing immediately serious or life threatening, I could go home. Obviously there is still an issue and I am booked in for an emergency MRI and have been referred to neurology and I need to go back to see the department next week. I still don’t know what will happen. But where I am now is so much better than where I could have been. I’m still in shock about what happened. I don’t think you can go through something so massive or terrifying and feel OK. I went to a pretty dark place and although I am hugely relieved I won’t ever forget the worry on peoples faces at the optician or at the hospital. Or the relief on the doctors face when the good news came.

I needed to get all this written down for a few reasons, firstly having been through stuff before I know that it is so important to talk about traumatic experiences and to address them and also because I don’t want anyone else to make my mistakes. Because it could have been so much worse. It also made it very hard for the opticians that I didn’t have up to date records to compare with.

So do me a favour, if you are due an eye test or have a medical concern you’ve been ignoring, go and get it looked at. Please. In the meantime I am spending today in bed recovering, resting and preparing myself for whats to come.

I need to take a moment to shout from the rooftops how amazing the NHS are, I don’t know what I appreciate more – the kindness and compassion I received, the speed and efficiency of my treatment or the fact that I can be unwell without the worry of financial implications. But for so many reasons I am incredibly grateful right now.

  • Reply
    July 16, 2017 at 10:23 am

    I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. I really hope it all works out OK. I’m a lifelong glasses wearer, so I’m used to going regularly and I guess that has worn off some of the fear around opticians appointments. I don’t love them, but for me, they are less invasive and potentially less pain inducing than the dentist (which I also hate!) I make myself go to all these appointments because prevention is better than cure and I figure, if the dentist keeps checking my teeth and I look after them at home – then I’m less likely to need a horrible filling or worse!

    With eyes, I’ve had a cancer scare recently due to a mole on the back of my eye which is VERY close to my optic nerve. Unfortunately the NHS has only just started using retinal photography and so there’s no history to compare it to. So I’m having regular monitoring and the chances are it’s been there all my life. But, can I just add to your advice – it’s REALLY important to go back to the same optician, so they know your eyes and have your records because they don’t seem to share your medical history (which I find bizarre). But if I’d been going to the same one for a few years, they would be able to compare my few photographs which would aid better diagnosis.

    I will second that the NHS moves really fast on these things – I’ve never had medical appointments come through so fast.

    Take it easy today and try not to think about it all. X

  • Reply
    July 16, 2017 at 11:58 am

    My heart was in my mouth reading this Catherine. I’m glad that you’re okay and not facing the worst-case scenario, but it must have been terrifying. Sending lots of hugs, take care of yourself x

  • Reply
    Chloe (Sorry About The Mess)
    July 16, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Thank goodness you acted fast in making an appointment at the opticians. I could imagine it being one of those things that I just put off, assuming it wouldn’t be anything serious. Read the rest of this with my heart in my mouth, must have been such a whirlwind of emotion and worry. Hope you get answers soon xx

  • Reply
    Donna Watson
    July 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a private part of your life with us. I’m so very pleased that there was nothing terrible waiting for you at the end. Sending you love and hugs and wishing you a healthy future. Xxx

  • Reply
    Mim (@crinolinerobot)
    July 17, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I’m so glad you had a bit of good news at the end, and I hope all goes well in your MRI. It must have been an utterly terrifying time for you.

    The NHS is brilliant, isn’t it? The care my mum got when she had pneumonia recently was amazing. (I try to donate money to my local hospital’s support fund every once in a while, I really need to do that again!)

  • Reply
    July 17, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I am so very sorry to hear of your saga. It’s great news you got the all clear after the CT scan, but I hope you get the issue sorted out soon. I felt horrified reading your post – thanks for sharing it frankly and fully. Kx

  • Reply
    Miss Magpie
    July 17, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Wow I can’t even begin to imagine how scary that must have been, fingers crossed for the MRI and thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Literally almost dropped my phone when you sent me the message at work. Just wanted to be working at the hospital you were at and not mine :(. Honestly babe couldn’t imagine life without you so whatever we have to do to make this shit better i’m there. We are ALL here for you and that will NEVER change xx love you xx

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