The Summer of 2017 was ‘when I got ill’, for three years. It was also when my copper coil was inserted.
It started with strange feelings in my hands that were difficult to describe; a sort of numbness, tingling, heavy, aching feeling. I also started feeling sluggish throughout the day and completely exhausted in the evenings. The exhaustion always took me by surprise – earlier in the day I would plan to get a few things done in the evening, but I would suddenly feel unable to achieve anything and would stay rooted to one spot on the sofa. I felt so guilty about it, as my husband had to step in and take care of the children’s bedtime routine and end-of-day chores.
Then those strange feelings in my hands started happening in my feet. Four months later, they were accompanied by bursts of stabbing pains throughout the day and shooting pains down my legs and arms, particularly down my right side. I started thinking I may have the onset of MS and went to see a doctor.
The doctor said it didn’t sound like MS and told me that I needed to get a good massage (which I would have to pay for). So I got some massages, but it made little difference and was expensive to sustain over a long period of time. Of course, I had some back pain and abdominal pain too – don’t all women? Doctors take little notice of that.
I started getting constipated, and no matter how much water I drank, I felt dehydrated. A sharp pain developed in the right side of my intestines – sometimes I could feel it as I walked. The doctor said it was probably IBS but carried out some blood tests. They only revealed that I was slightly deficient in vitamin D.
The doctor also booked me in for an abdominal scan at the hospital. They checked my ovaries and liver, but when I pointed to the intestinal area nearby that was very painful, the specialist replied: “I can’t look there: It’s not on the list to check”. The ‘list’ was a scanned document from my doctor that appeared on her screen sideways (which forced her to tilt her head at a 90 degree angle), with two scribbled, illegible sentences on it, that she admitted was unclear.
Over the next two years, the symptoms gradually worsened. I was I constant pain. In addition to the frequent stabbing and shooting pains, I had a hot band of pain around my right hip and my shoulder. Although I had told my family and friends about the pain, I looked well so it was difficult for people to remember or be considerate if I didn’t join in with some activities. Most of the time I tried not to think about how bad I felt, because it was stressful to keep wondering what was wrong.
I had trouble sleeping. The pain would prevent me from falling asleep, then I would dream about the pain, and if I woke (which happened a lot, due to the children), I’d struggle to fall asleep again.
Over time the pain took its toll on my mental capacity. I felt I was just existing through life, with a heavy fog in my brain, dizzy spells, and feeling irritable and short-tempered. I felt as if the children weren’t getting quality attention from me. Every day I tried to be upbeat, act happy and get on with things for their sakes, but it was an effort and I felt distracted.
I lost my sex drive and it was as if I had gone physically ‘numb’ in that whole area.
I went back to the doctors to explain how bad it had got. Unfortunately, I caught him in a bad mood. I had popped by the Reception to ask for an appointment as I was passing by. The receptionist had given me an emergency appointment because there was one left that day (even though I hadn’t asked for one and had expected to wait two weeks). He huffed and puffed about why I’d come in and what was so urgent. His manner when I spoke was intimidating; he stared coldly and silently at me when I paused between explanations. As I opened up, I struggled to catch my breath and started hyperventilating.
The doctor said I had hyperventilation syndrome, and probably an underlying stress-related condition. He offered me anti-depressants.
“But I’m not depressed,” I said.
Sure, I felt down about the illness, but I’d had a short period in my life which was like depression – after a partner had left, and a job piled a ridiculous amount of work on me. This was nothing like that. My life in general was actually very good. I had a lot to be happy about – a good relationship, a job I enjoyed, and no worries except my own health. I had also been a healthy, happy person before the Summer of 2017 when the pain started.
At this point he got quite cross, told me to respect his professional opinion and barked: “Anti-depressants, aren’t just for depression! What we don’t want to do is send you to test after test, which will probably come back with nothing. Think about whether you want to at least try anti-depressants.”
I went. I thought: No, thank you.
When I told my husband about his diagnosis of hyperventilation syndrome, he laughed. He had never seen me hyperventilate, ever. I’m sure it happened in the surgery because I was forced to acknowledge how shitty I’d felt on a daily basis for almost three years. I felt as if the doctor hadn’t listened.
I turned 40 in 2020, but felt as if I had aged a decade over the past three years. I know everybody ages more in their late 30’s, but I felt the change had been more intense than it should have been. I almost saw the acceleration taking place in the mirror, since the image of me in photos that Summer when I had life in my eyes and a bounce in my cheeks. Now my face looked sallow and sagged, my jawline had changed and my hairline was thinning. I felt old. Was this it now, for the rest of my life, with this pain? Will I just go further downhill?
I kept trying to remember what had happened in the Summer of 2017. Nothing – no big drama or upsetting event. No foreign holiday where I may have been bitten or caught something nasty (and I had asked the doctors about Lymes Disease).
Discovering a link with the copper coil.
I was very lucky to figure out the connection…..I was looking at old photographs of my son when he was aged one year, and remembered that that was how old he was when we decided to deal with contraception, and I had a copper coil inserted. Then I realized it must have been 2017. The IUD leaflet was in the top drawer of my bedside table. Curious, I took it out and looked at the date of insertion. I was shocked: it read ‘August 2017’. I remembered a nurse had mentioned that some patients have an allergic reaction to the coil.
I wondered…….I googled ‘Copper Coil’ and ‘Affects of copper on the body.’
That’s when I read about Copper Toxicity and the hundreds of cases where women had shared stories like mine, describing the deterioration of their health after having the copper coil inserted.