An Ode to my Thumb; Reasons to be grateful…

If reincarnation is real I hope I come back as a tree. A beautiful, wise, strong, tree. I want to look out across amazing views. There must be water in sight, a rolling river or soothing sea. I’d want to be a protected tree, free from risk of being chopped down, burned or built on. This life has dealt me quite enough blows, I’d like to be left in peace in the next one please.

So let me tell you about my THUMB. It all started with our recent camping holiday. Seven days of adventures in rural Kent. We had three nights in a hop pickers hut on a farm. Countryside views and campfires galore, compost toilets and no electricity. I was most impressed by our nine year old L, who used static electricity to charge his iPad from zero to 8%!

Next we moved to a riverside campsite for four nights. Storm Francis did its best to blow our tent away. The smell of the chemical waste disposal (10 paces from our tent) and greasy burgers wasn’t quite what we’d pictured. But the canoeing on the river made up for the stink and the ‘old beardo’ germs H declared were in the rather yucky toilets and showers.

I woke up on day one and my left thumb was absolute agony. If I didn’t know better I’d have thought I’d hit it with a hammer. It felt hot, tight, burning. I moaned a bit because I’m a wimp with pain, took an antihistamine in case it was an insect bite and tried to forget about it.

As the holiday continued the pain got worse. My thumb started to turn a horrible purplish blue color. The nail beds on the other fingers of my left hand started to feel bruised and sore. It was irritating that the pain wouldn’t ease and it started to keep me awake in the night. The day we came home I noticed the thumb had gone freezing cold. The tip was numb. The pain now radiated into my palm, wrist and forearm. I made a vague commitment to N to call the Doctors but of course it was a bank holiday so they were closed.

Now being Autistic I hate using the phone, it makes me horribly anxious. But you can make initial contact with NHS 111 online now and within an hour a lovely GP called me back. To my surprise she mentioned clots and vascular issues. I felt mildly panicked but my personal Jiminy Cricket was telling me to calm down because I’d had enough bad luck to last a lifetime. (If you haven’t already, check out my recent blog on gaslighting and domestic abuse to get the full picture. It’s not an easy read so if you don’t want to cry, just take my word for it that I really lucked out in the parent and sibling stakes)…

Anyway after stalling for most of Sunday I took myself to A&E. Over the course of several hours and the hard work of numerous wonderful Doctors and Nurses I had bloods done, an X-ray, an ECG and an angiogram to look at the blood circulation in my left arm. It turns out my poor purple thumb is being starved of blood supply, and the consensus is that I have clot(s) in my arm.

I finally got home around midnight, took some codeine and waited for the Vascular Surgeon to call me this morning.

The Surgeon has started me on immediate blood thinners to reduce the risk of further clot formation. The vascular team will arrange more tests; heart scans, heart rhythm monitoring, more blood tests….answers are going to take time but I’m fine with that as they’ve assured me I’m not in immediate danger.

One of the most worrying things for me is that my thumb may never recover and in the next few weeks we’ll have to see if it goes black and separates…It was bad enough losing a breast but losing a thumb is just way too gory for me and I can’t help feeling I will scare small children!

Meanwhile the pain continues in my thumb, spreading into my wrist, arm and now behind my shoulder blade. I’m not feeling great and can’t see myself participating in body combat or breakdancing any time soon. But I am very glad to be alive and this has definitely put my suicidal thoughts into perspective. Despite the horrors of my childhood and the rejection by my mother, siblings and maternal grandparents, I will not let their cruelty stop me wanting to live. My loving paternal grandfather died a young man from a clot that travelled to his brain. My father has DVT and has been hospitalized when clots have travelled from his legs to his lungs. So you can appreciate how scared I was alone in hospital being told I had blood clots in my body…my highly emotional Autistic brain went into overdrive. I imagined one wrong sneeze would send a clot hurtling to my lungs or heart to finish me off.

The moral of this story is that you should listen to your purple thumb! Trust your instincts. Pay attention to your bodies. Most importantly, pay attention to the unique connection between our body and minds. It’s no coincidence that I’ve developed blood clots, for the first time in my life, whilst suffering horrendous stress and heartache at the hands of my birth family over the last month. Stress and trauma really does cause blood to clot, that’s not speculation, that’s medical fact. When I developed breast cancer at 39, as a healthy, non smoking, vegetarian I researched causes at length and discussed them with my oncologist. Emotions affect hormones and immune health. Childhood trauma and psychological distress create the perfect biological landscape for disease to spread. I’m not just ‘unlucky’ to have fallen foul of ill health. I’ve been groomed to succumb to disease because of a lifetime of abuse.

But I’m taking back control. My body, my life. I am caring for my biological terrain. I am surrounding myself with the love of my amazing husband and sons; we are an unbeatable campfire making, tandem canoeing, rock pooling, wild swimming, kitchen partying, movie night snuggling team. I am embracing the people who do love me and mine. My dear friends old and new, my husband’s maternal family, my kick-ass Aunties and Cousins on my maternal and paternal sides who know my truth and aren’t afraid to stand up for me; my 2 beautiful sister in laws who have overcome marriage to my siblings and who give me the dignity and strength to retreat from my persecutors and not to lash out in spite like they do to me.

Stay healthy, live well.

Lizzy Van Tromp

31/08/20