I’ve had 22 surgeries in 35 years including two knee replacements, three hip replacements, three back surgeries, a shoulder replacement, pelvic bone transplants and surgeries in both feet.
In my 20s and 30s I was in charge of boarding schools but I had to stop because of the pain.
I was taking large doses of OxyContin, morphine patches and drugs such as Gabapentin for nerve pain, but I couldn’t stand how drowsy the opioids made me feel.
After my third back surgery in 2013 I landed in intensive care with horrific and uncontrollable pain.
I was referred to the Greenwich Hospital Pain Clinic and completed a 10-week course covered by Medicare. Since then, my life has completely changed.
With the help of the pain clinic, I stopped all opioids and replaced them with a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and pacing to regain my zest for life and reconnect with my ministry. During group sessions we discussed the science of pain, how it works and how it affects your body. Sharing my story helped me so much.
I find the concept of pain psychology fascinating. I can control the intensity at which I feel pain. I do this through distraction, meditation and visualisation.
I’m committed to a multidisciplinary approach for pain management. My pain management team, who I see weekly at Bounce in Pyrmont, involves a physiotherapist, nutritionist and pain psychologist. I do eight hours of pain management a week and walk every day.
I don’t take opiates, which is the hard road but it’s a better quality of life. Before I felt like I wasn’t contributing to this life because I was so consumed by my pain. Now I feel in control. Learning how to change my thought patterns has empowered me.
These days I teach fellow nuns how to use iPads and I’ve taken up cardio boxing for pain management.
I’m on a Disability Support Pension and I use my experience in my role as a Consumer Representative for the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation, which is implementing the statewide pain plan.