1. How it all began …

… towards the end of 2010 I had this crazy idea that I would run the Manchester 10k in May 2011. At this stage I wouldn’t even have run for a bus (partly due to my running-inappropriate footwear) let alone run 10k. At school I had always been the tubby kid who came last in cross country, preferring to read a book than get muddy and out of breath. But, having set myself a number of challenges for 2011 my 30th birthday year, I set about training for the run assisted by my super fit running buddies Neil and Philippa.

Not long after we had started, in November 2010, I woke up one morning to find that my right leg had gone numb. Now it wasn’t the kind on numb you get if you sit with your legs crossed for too long and you can’t feel it properly and then the pins and needle kick in. No, this was really numb, like the feeling was lost, like it was dead. Right from the sole of my foot up to and including my right butt cheek and right side of my ‘lady bits’.

At first I wasn’t actually that concerned. I assumed that I had trapped a nerve running and so started doing stretches, soaking in hot baths and rubbing my lower back in an attempt to ‘free the nerve’. After all, this proved that running was indeed bad for you!

It was so bad that I couldn’t feel the hot tap running on my foot in the bath. And I couldn’t move my toes to make them fit into my shoe – they kept curling up and I couldn’t keep my shoe on when I walked. Nevertheless I managed to keep going in the stilettos and didn’t do anything about it. I remember one afternoon helping at the Manchester Law Fair at the Gmex in Manchester, spending three hours on my feet (in stilettos) chatting to students. When I came to leave I couldn’t walk to the car. My right leg wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. My shoe wouldn’t stay on and I had to shuffle to the car. It was really frightening. Yet I still drove home, not wanting to admit that there was something wrong. After all, I am too busy to be ill.

In the shower I realised that the side of my left boob was also a bit numb. I knew that this couldn’t have been a running injury. To be honest I wasn’t even sure that bit was numb – was I imagining it because of my leg? Was it always like that? Or was I ignoring it. This was all rather inconvenient. I had places to go, things to do.

After a couple of weeks things hadn’t improved and I reluctantly went to the NHS walk-in centre having been directed to go by my friend Wendy who forcibly took my court work from me and pushed me out of the door in the direction of the centre. Even when they told me to go straight to A&E I thought it was all rather over the top and had more important things to be doing than sitting in the waiting room at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

At A&E they tested my reflexes with a hammer like the ones they have in kids toy doctor sets – I didn’t think they used those in real life! They tested the feeling (or rather lack of it) by sticking a pin in me. And they tested my flexibility and movement by bending my legs in all manner of directions. The worse thing was having to take my stockings off at which I was mortified that I hadn’t shaved my legs as recently as I might have liked and noted that that was as important as matching underwear in the event of being run over by a bus…

After all this the conclusion was that they didn’t know what was wrong although it looked like a nerve problem and sent me on my way.

The following week I went to my GPs surgery and saw a doctor who performed a similar examination to those at A&E. This time I was prepared and had super smooth legs. This time the doctor was more confident in saying that it was a trapped nerve through running (confirming my conclusion that it was a somewhat unhealthy pastime) and suggested I see a physiotherapist which I did the same day. Again the stockings had to come off whilst the same hammer, pin and bending tests were done. The physiotherapist was also confident – confident in saying that it was not a trapped nerve and he did not what was the cause.

The only thing that everyone was certain of – was to warn me that if I ‘lost control’ of my bladder or bowels I should go to A&E straight away. WHAT?! Wet myself? Shit myself? I don’t bloody think so!! My leg and lady bits might have been numb but I wasn’t about to start doing that. How would having a numb leg render me incontinent?! I didn’t understand.

It was only when I saw my own GP the following week that he said I needed to have an MRI scan to see what was going on. By this time my leg had been dead for about a month and wasn’t showing any signs of coming back. I thought it might just fall off. That it had died and was liable to wither and drop off at any moment. To be honest at the time that might have been preferable – it’s hard enough to walk in 3 inch heels when both your legs are in full working order ….

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