Mesh & the Things I Miss
If anyone had told me that I could possibly be damaged in any way from having a bladder lift using a mesh sling, even slightly, I would have said “No way” to this surgery. I look back over the two years and seven months since it was put into me and there are so many things I miss from the life I once knew. I know I have to go through removal surgery, but of course I would have to be stupid not to weigh the risks. However, whatever those risks are, I have no choice but to go through it.
The top thing on my list is the independence I no longer have without being able to drive a car. I had to sell my older car to get the expenses to travel out to UCLA, but it was sitting in my driveway anyway and I knew something had to go so that I can move forward. So I am hoping to be able to drive once again and then maybe I will be able to buy another used car. The reason driving became so difficult is because the pain is down my right leg. For awhile I kept driving until I reached a point that getting in the car alone was agonizing. This is because we drive on the right side of the road and the driver is on the left side of the car. To get in the car, my right leg had to stretch in first and I had to slide my body under the steering wheel and then pull my left leg in. Stretching out my right leg was like having someone sticking a hot knife into my groin. After that I had to drive a fair distance to go to the nearest grocery store because I live out in the countryside and all motions of driving is with my right foot and leg. The problem with that is, I would then have to get out of the car, do the shopping and then get back in again. As my condition progressed, I was afraid I would not be able to drive home again. Then my daughter would have to figure out how to get me and a second car home. I knew it was time for me to give in to the fact I would be a lot less trouble and live in less pain if I quit driving. That was really hard to do, but I had no choice.
When I view my right leg I view it as an awkward, painful appendage of my body. If I try to do things with it, the pain shifts down my leg, into my hip, around my back and up my pelvic area. The pain is there all the time, but it is dull, unless I try to do normal things. I had no clue how much all of this connects before this happened. I was able to reach my right foot at first and although painful to do it, I could just trim my toenails. As time went on, the nerve must have become more entrapped in the mesh and it has become impossible. I read somewhere that mesh shrinks with the temperature in our body. This would explain why the longer mesh is in us, the more we become ill and much worse off. So trimming my toenails on my right foot is now out. I finally broke down and asked my daughter if she would do it for me.
Other things have happened and I had to figure out how to do things for that foot. For instance. We came home from the grocery store recently and I did not realize there was a small fire ant nest outside the car and I stepped in it. I realized quickly after the first bite hit my foot, and I moved away, but I saw the ants on top of my foot and I had to figure out how to get them off. That was not easy, but I managed using a paper bag from inside the car. I hobbled into the house very slowly using my walking stick and I felt my foot on fire. I knew I had to get antibiotic cream on the bites, so I had to think how. I wrapped a plastic ruler with a clean cloth and tied it. Then I dipped the cloth in the cream and spread the cream over my foot. I barely reached it with the ruler but I knew if I left the bites they would quickly be infected. My mother always said “where there’s a will there’s a way” and I managed somehow. My daughter was busy unloading groceries and had no idea until later what had happened. It’s that independence streak in all of us, that you keep fighting for.
Shoes. Shoes and boots. That is such a BIG thing. How I miss wearing shoes. Not flashy high heels because I know I will never wear anything with a heel again because of nerve damage. Just something to cover my feet when it is cold. Last winter I barely managed to pull a sock over my right foot with a gadget I bought over the Internet. Most of the time I just pushed my right foot inside a warm slipper without a back and made do. When I went out I wore a shoe without a back where I could slide my foot inside. I almost always I wear an old pair of broken in sandals, regardless of rain or cold. I can’t break in a new pair because that is risky and cause me more pain, so I stick to the worn out ones so that I don’t rock the boat and wind up in more pain. Everything I do is done to lessen the pain and hang in without pain meds before my surgery. It is impossible to put boots on because you have to reach down and pull them on. That would require a gut wrenching stab in the groin and I am afraid I would never get them off again. I say ‘they’, because I can do anything with my left leg and foot.
Walking my little dog. How I miss walking my energetic Yorkshire Terrier. Beaux was a rescue and has been beside me all the days I have stayed home along. He is my companion and my rock, but I cannot walk him. Although he is a small dog, he weighs twenty pounds and has a ton of excited energy. He can pull me quite easily on the end of his leash. I tried to walk him a little after my leg pain began but quickly realized one pull could make me fall to the ground and I wouldn’t be able to get up again. I don’t have the strength in my right leg to get up on it and the pain would be far too great. So how would I make it back to the house alone? That is always on my mind. I don’t go outside unless my daughter is around to help me if I were to fall. I do nothing to increase the pain and ensure I would be on prescription pain meds to survive.
Walking………How I miss walking like a normal person. You know? A normal gait or stride. I walk like an eighty year old woman who is going downhill. I have my better days, when I can fake it slightly and try to move a little more normal. Who am I kidding. I haven’t been able to do that in a long time. Then other times the pain shifts and I barely make it up from a chair to stand on my leg, let alone walk very far. I tell my daughter I am a ‘hobbler’. I joke about it because what else can you do but add a little humor to the day. You have to make the best of a bad situation.
There are so many more small things that you don’t think will impede your life quality every day with the results of mesh complications. There are others of course that are not attached to my leg. Constant burning in my vagina. Pelvic pain that grips and grabs and hangs on. But for me, my life has been changed drastically because of the pain down my leg, thigh and groin.
For many women there are so many other side affects from the complications of this surgery. Knife-like stabbing up inside their vagina. Luckily, so far that has not happened to me. Immune disorders run rampant from non-stop infections that can never be cured using antibiotics. Until I found and began taking marshmallow root, I thought I had no future at all. For others it is that deep tissue infection and other infections that I have written about before. The list is so long and everyone is different. We are not ‘one size fits all’.
I hope by writing about this before my surgery, other women will realize it is the sling that racks their body with pain. I want women to tell themselves it is okay not to get that diagnosis from doctors who are not willing to say it is and to seek the help they need so badly. I write because I cannot allow myself the luxury of staying quiet. I have no other choice regardless of what difficulties it may bring me in the future. I don’t want other women to live in pain the way I have now for two years and seven months. Take that first step and seek the real answers and help.
I hope in the near future, these painful memories will fade, but I know they need to be written down now for the women who will come along later, wondering why they have so many painful problems after bladder sling surgery. Right now it is very real to me and I need you to understand what this is like.