The Barbara Walker Centre

The Royal North Shore Pain Clinic, which opened in 1994, is the biggest and most state-of-the-art pain clinic in Australia.

The Barbara Walker Centre for Pain Management at St Vincents Hospital, Melbourne, opened in 1998, runs along similar lines.

Barbara Walker, wife of entrepreneur Ron Walker, suffered chronic pain after a breast cancer operation, crossed the world in search of a cure, and finally entered the ADAPT course, which she says turned her life around. The Walkers were so impressed, they instigated fundraising to establish the clinic in Melbourne.

“In 1990, I had a lump removed and the surgeon also removed the lymph nodes,” says Walker. “I was left in agony, with constant, shocking, spasming pain encircling me – under my arms, across my shoulder blades and breast.”

"Over the next 2 years, I went from one doctor to the next, and got no answer. I was told the cancer was cured and there was nothing wrong with me. They didn't exactly say that I was imagining it, but there was always a look on the face and a deadly silence, as if to say, 'Oh, right, she's neurotic.'

"The pain took over my life. I could barely walk across the room without crying, I was staggering everywhere and people began to think I was dying from cancer. But the cancer was gone; now I had this frightening pain.

"One night at a dinner, I was sitting next to scientist Professor Gus Nossal, and he said, 'You're obviously in a lot of pain, tell me about it." I described it to him, and he said, 'That's damaged nerve endings."

It was the first time I had a name for it. He sent me to a neurologist who confirmed that nerve endings had been damaged during my operation, but said it was too late to do anything about it."

Barbara Walker flew to a New York pain clinic, then learned that Michael Cousins had trained at that clinic and was establishing a new one in Sydney, so she continued her treatment there.

"Professor Cousins gave me medication that stopped the spasming, but I still had the pain. They tried the intrathecal pump [in the space where the fluid flows around the spinal cord] and dorsal column stimulator, and these didn't help in my case. What helped me most was the ADAPT course, though I must admit I went into it with very little faith it would work."