Mind over Matter – what does it really mean? Can the brain overcome the pain?

This past week I had two reasons to celebrate!!  I also went through the most emotionally challenging week of my lifetime and I have so many stories to share.

What I will say upfront is this…….

This blog is your choice to read, your choose to follow it, share it, ignore it or be involved and comment on it.  If you like it, great!  If you don’t, then instead of wasting time and energy hating something you really have no idea about, please just move on.  I share personal information about my Previvor journey, including images, video clips and internet links which are unedited and may expose my body.  What you see here is my reality and I’m proud to share it.

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Why the sudden disclaimer about the blog?

Well I was lucky enough over the weekend to have a ‘friend’ tell me their honest opinion about my blog.  I respect his honesty and really appreciated the fact that he was able to communicate how he felt.  I have to laugh though at his interpretation, because to be honest, it absolutely SHOCKED me and proved to me that he really doesn’t know me as well as I thought.  I loved this mind over matter quote and thought it was very relevant to share.

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This guy said that he felt my blog was written for attention, that I’m not about the ‘cancer cause’, that what I share makes people uncomfortable and it’s not appropriate to share on the internet to the world.  He said that I wasn’t invited to share my story in this forum and that he doesn’t like it.

What the?  My blog is written for attention?

Well he’s got that right!  I ‘expose’ myself in the hope that others out there who are afraid to ask questions might find some answers along the way.  I don’t glamourise my Previvor experience, there’s no celebrity attached to it, I am open and honest enough to share the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly side of proactively removing my breasts to avoid an almost guaranteed future cancer diagnosis.

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It made me laugh though!  But then it made me sad!  Has he completely got it wrong, or is there a general feeling out there in the world of haters, that I would willingly choose to remove my breasts, then bravely share my story to others just for attention?

Well let me tell you this…..

I am a very open and honest person, I believe in living life once and living it well and I am comfortable and confident to share my life experiences here in this forum.  It was something I was initially challenged by, because it meant opening up and exposing myself, but I am passionate about sharing my Previvor story, my life story and I do it in the hope that there’s someone out there asking the questions that I willingly answer without hesitation.

Not to mention that I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a very open and honest person. What you see is what you get, so I’m not sure why the sudden shock that I would be so ‘out there’ with my blog!

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On Saturday 6th September, it was exactly 6 months since the day I was discharged from hospital following my Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy. Time has flown past so quickly, and this is my new normal.  I was out on my bike that day, riding from Charters Towers to Townsville, what a way to celebrate my 6 month anniversary of this image.

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The second reason to celebrate happened as I finished the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride.  This ride is definitely not for the faint hearted, it’s an 8 day adventure starting in Brisbane and travelling North towards Townsville to cover 1600km’s on a bicycle.  The ride is supported by a WORLD CLASS road crew, who volunteer their time to help us survive the journey.

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I’ll definitely be sharing more stories about this adventure, so stay tuned!!  For now though, I want to break it down into shorter stories about the varying experiences I had during the challenging 8 days, but I will warn you that my stories will be raw, honest, open and at times perhaps even make you feel uncomfortable.  Please know that my intention is (and has always been) to ‘tell it how it is’, rather than pretty it up for the reader.

I was reminded during this ride about the true meaning of Mind over Matter! We’re taught this as children, occasionally reminded of it as adults and really they’re just words strung together to sound good, right?

Wrong!!

DISCLAIMER: You should stop reading now if you’re in anyway squeamish about seeing my butt cheeks!!!

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Let’s just say that by the end of Day 1, my ‘saddle’ (the polite term used to basically describe your butt and lady bits on the bike) was a little tender.  By tender I mean red, raw, open with skin removed and a hot, heated and bruised like feeling throbbing as I rode along.  It wasn’t pretty and of course I took a ‘butt selfie’ to send to my hubby to keep him updated about the ride.  I’ve faded the crotch area to make it more appropriate to share, but this is what it looked like on Day 1.  If you have issues with the images, I’d suggest you stop reading now, because I do share more further in this blog.

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By Day 2, the swelling and redness was so severe, I really should have taken a break from riding, but instead I pushed on and decided to go into some sort of state of deep self talk, where I would convince myself for the first few hours on the bike that I was able to overcome the pain with mental strength.

Mind over matter!!  I found myself trying anything and everything to stay focused, to stay strong, to stay on the bike.  I would sing to myself, sometimes groan, moan, shuffle on the seat, stand up for relief, move around from left to right or just half sit on the seat and try to take the weight of my body into my legs.  I won’t lie, I was fighting a mental battle harder than I’ve ever fought anything else in my entire life.

The pain I was feeling can best be described with an image.  Without exaggeration, It was something along the lines of this…..

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I’ll say it again….Mind over Matter!  But the feeling may have been closer to this………

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I was in pain, severe pain, pain that made tears uncontrollably run down my cheeks.  As other riders rolled past, I would try to brave their polite ‘hello’ with a return ‘hello’, sometimes engaging in brief conversation, but in all honesty, I just wanted the pain to stop, the stinging to subside and I wanted nothing more than to be able to sit down on my seat without the stabbing pain.  I chanted ‘mind over matter’.

By Day 3 I was wearing double knicks (two pairs of cycle pants) and it didn’t help, so on Day 4 at the morning tea break I decided to try triple knicks, that’s right – THREE pairs of cycle pants!!  Believe it or not, there was some minor relief, but the stabbing, stinging, swelling, bleeding, oozing, throbbing and spreading pain didn’t go away.  What started as chaffing, quickly become open blisters, then wounds and eventually what I can only describe as a deep cavity in both of my butt cheeks.  I found myself chanting ‘You Can Do It Mum’ over and over again, for hours on end.  I must have sounded like a crazy woman!!

The image of our girls holding this sign was often the difference between me pushing through the pain barrier or giving up completely.

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Day 5 saw me start with triple knicks and I remained this way for the rest of the trip, knowing that the heat from three pairs of pants was easier to deal with than the pain of what 4 days of riding had done to my nether-regions.  It wasn’t pretty and the Day 4 butt selfie to my hubby looked something like this…..

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By Day 7 the wounds were so deep that the chamois cream, which is designed to soothe cyclists bottoms, actually burnt me for over 6 hours straight.  I felt like I was in a trance on the bike most mornings, but by mid-morning or towards lunch time either my butt would become numb, or the pain threshold adapted, I honestly don’t know which one, but whatever happened, I was able to ride stronger and more comfortably as the day went on. Day 7 was definitely the biggest challenge for me, the bruising was coming out now and the pain was indescribable.

In the end, I was in some pretty dark places, I could barely walk properly, my underwear would stick to my open wounds and cause even more pain and I needed some serious medical attention ‘down there’.  It was really tough!!

The support from some of the riders was outstanding, it honestly kept me going when I wanted to stop.  We laughed about it, we joked, we made light of a situation which could have had me sitting in the van, and I felt supported by strangers, people who I didn’t even know a week before the ride.

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I love this picture taken on what was definitely my toughest day on the bike.

By Day 8 ‘down there’ looked completely abnormal, so wrong and so bruised and battered that I almost can’t believe myself that I’m willing to share the image here in the blog.  The image below isn’t ‘R’ rated, it’s just my skin between my thigh and my groin, there’s a little ‘butt cheek’ in there, but I can assure you there are no ‘lady bits’.  There’s a couple of open ‘saddle sores’ which kindly popped around Day 7 I think, these sit very close to my ‘privates’, but thankfully they remained intact throughout the whole ride.

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The bruising, pain and agony were challenging, it was definitely an unexpected part of the ride, but with the amazing support from almost everyone on the ride, I was able to truly test the mind over matter theory.

I say ‘almost’ everyone because I did have one rider ask me bluntly at the end of the ride “did you have to complain so much about your butt”?

Well fellow rider, I am not really sure what to say, other than to be honest.  Yes I might have moaned when the roads were rough, yes I cried quietly for hours each morning when the pain was unbearable and yes I may have said the ‘F’ word a few too many times when riding over cats eyes in the shoulder of the roads!!

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I seriously doubt that many people, including the rider who felt I complained too much about my butt, would have stayed on the bike in the pain I was in.  I will never be able to explain it, but in my heart I know that I overcame challenging mental battles for 8 days straight to become a stronger person, which has changed me for the better for life.

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Of course after rolling into Townsville and cleaning myself up, I called upon a trusted friend who lives locally to ‘patch me up’.  I was so excited to see her and her family at the finish line, little did she know that she’d be helping me medically later that afternoon.  It had been years since we’ve seen each other, but she’s a Dr and married to a Paramedic, so between them they’re experts in my eyes.  We had a laugh at how hilarious it looked for me to be spread out on the floor of our hotel room, legs wide apart, while holding a conversation about friendship.

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I’m proud that I was able to fight the mental battle, to overcome the pain, to struggle through deep and dark moments and make it through when all I wanted to do was give up.  One of the road crew posted this quote on the last day and I think it summed it up for me perfectly.

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I’m not ashamed to admit that tears rolled down my cheeks when I read it.  I felt like it summed my journey up perfectly.

For anyone interested in the stats from our 8 days on the bike, here’s what we did.  You’ll need to click the image to see the numbers.  What an amazing time we had!!

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In closing, the mind over matter thing really does work.  It’s not easy, it’s mentally tough, it’s painful, dark, challenging and when your body wants to give up, challenging the mind to stay tough is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Even with the blood, bruising and perhaps even the risk of some permanent scars ‘down there’, it was well and truly worth it!!

Mind over Matter

4 thoughts on “Mind over Matter – what does it really mean? Can the brain overcome the pain?

  1. Holy… holy… holy!!!!! Unbelievable! I had “a” (yes, one stinking little spot) saddle sore on the middi Smiddy… it blooming hurt. Now, I’m trying to multiply what I experienced to what you might have… nope. Can’t imagine it. How the heck you managed to deal with that sort of injury and stayed out of the van I just don’t know. You are one amazingly strong woman! That last photo… the colour… Respect woman, respect!

    • Thanks Scott – your comment made me laugh and also smile. Coming from a fellow Smiddy rider, you’d definitely know the pain of saddle sores and I certainly wouldn’t wish the pain I went through on anyone in the entire world!! When I remember the ride, I must admit that I do wonder how I got through at times, but it’s amazing how deep you can dig when you’re surrounded by the type of positive and supportive people along for the ride. You summed it up well – it blooming hurt and the colour – the colour was completely wrong!!!

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