A time to talk – what a pain in the neck (NOT)

Amongst the everyday the mind copes will all kinds of things, good and bad. At any time, there could be something/s that make life seem more overwhelming.

As a chaplain, we’re used to providing an ear to listen, but we’re not super human, we’re normal and things can get overwhelming for us too.

A great tool is to share a little of what’s happening in life, and for blokes this can sometimes be difficult. But we do not need to fear, we are strong in taking a small moment to chat with a spouse/friend/chaplain sharing can be a mighty opportunity to help cope.

To lead as an example, I’m going to share a little with you now. I’m not seeking pity or sympathy, life is life we all go through it. We each have different experiences and at any time they could be big, small, disappointing or celebrating.

In 2000/2001 (I cannot remember which, it was a while ago now) over the summer my brother in-law and I had a great adventure, we embraced some mountain biking at Thredbo and took on the “Cannonball run” we had a morning of tuition and some runs down the hill. Thredbo is quite special, take bike up the chair lift and ride back down. My kind of easy.

After several runs down the hill, I came undone. I hit a contour bank full on, slide through loose gravel and my front wheel locked in the brakes. The front wheel got stuck in a rut and it threw me head over the bars, was probably not going too fast but landed head first and down.

I blacked out, even with a full-face helmet and body armour I ate some gravel and had bruising on the bridge of my nose from sunglasses. Immediately, my body responded by locking up my neck and I was feeling very stiff. X-rays later everything seemed OK, no breaks and nothing a little bit of rest would not help cure.

The bike was a mess, the front wheel bent at 90 degrees, the shocks collapsed and the steering bearings also collapsed with the forks bending backward. So, there was a fair bit of force involved.

In 2003 I was hospitalised in extreme pain through my left shoulder. The Doctors were not sure what was wrong, but after a week in hospital and an MRI they discovered a small bulge in a disc in my lower neck. Some physio and for a decade everything seemed fine.

From time to time though the injury flares up and through those initial treatments I’ve been able to manage the pain and live a pretty comfortable life.

Over the past 4 years though as the injury flares up, more symptoms have been added, I now get pins and needles down my left arm all the way down to my fingers. The treatment though has made life manageable though and have been able to plug away. Over this time I’ve had several CT scans and we know that the injury is getting worse but very slowly.

5 weeks ago, those treatments failed to help after flare up. I was seen at emergency in tears of pain. They helped me get over the initial high levels of pain to get me to my GP and into a new CT and MRI.

The news was not good. I now have a second disc bulging, but the initial disc bulge has herniated and is putting pressure on the spinal cord and in particular squashing a nerve canal to my left shoulder/arm.

I’ve been referred to a great neuro specialist and initially we’ve tried a cortisol injection to see if there is immediate pain relief while its monitored and to see what to do next.

Good disc should look like this:

Mine looks like this: (Notice a bulge pressing on spinal cord and the nerve canal)

As I write this blog I’m in pain and discomfort, and tired from pain killers.


The pain killers they put me on made me a little weird at first, fortunately after the cortisol injection the total level of pains killers is much lower. However, there is little overall relief, the discomfort is great and am not completely without pain killers (fortunately much lower levels).

In the mean-time we wait to see what the specialist says next.

This is making life hard for me right now, the uncertainty is great, how to live a life of more normality and reduced pain levels. Is surgery next? What are the risks?

I’m feeling quite sad as I cannot wear a helmet (under specialist’s instructions) no biking, no rally car (well grassroots motorsport etc.) the only driving I can do is normal daily driving.

Frankly it’s been a bit much for me, the mind has not been coping well, and the stress has been very high. Sometimes when I cannot seem to cope, I find myself simply in tears, and you know what that is OK.

I have so much to be thankful for. While a severe injury has now manifested, I have access to a great specialist, I can share, have people to talk with. So much to be thankful for.

So, I take a moment so share that with you. Again, not seeking pity, sympathy or for that matter attention. But know it’s ok to share, life gets pretty shitty at times. Please do not be afraid to share and talk about these things, there are people to talk with, family friends and even us chaplains too.

Note – as I share publicly, you don’t have to. There are times where it’s appropriate and times where it’s not. Please use wisdom and guidance when sharing.