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Kasey Badger isn't bothered by the prospect of having a rib removed.

Nor is she concerned about being on the operating table for three-and-a-half hours, the surgeon's warning she will be in pain afterwards, or even the threat something could go wrong and she might end up with a punctured lung.

As far as the NSW referee and aspiring NRL whistleblower is concerned, anything is preferable to the pain she has been living with for the past two years which has restricted her to very little sleep every night and impacted on her daily life.

"I've had for two years now a chronic nerve pain down my right arm which is particularly bad at night time," Badger told

"It's just the position when I'm laying down which must compress the nerve even more.

"I'm averaging about four hours sleep a night, so between that lack of sleep and still trying to get my training loads in and recover from games and training and everything, it's been a real physical and mental battle for the last two years."

Badger was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition which sees nerves, arteries and/or veins in the path from the lower neck to the arm pit compressed. It can result from injury, trauma or overuse of arms and can lead to pain in the shoulders and neck and numbness in the fingers.

Badger said the condition had not impacted on her duties as a NSWRL referee or running the touch line in the NRL, but the constant lack of sleep was impacting on other aspects of her life as well as her family and friends (Badger is married to NRL first grade referee Gavin Badger).

She could have had surgery earlier this year to address the issue but was concerned her recovery would have meant she'd miss too much of the Rugby League season so she delayed it until now ( Badger will be operated on Wednesday November 21). That's meant a season of pain most of us can't imagine.

She has tried everything to deal with it. She's had two rounds of botox injections directly into the muscle to try to alleviate the pressure on the affected nerve. She's tried various medications and sleeping tablets to help her rest at night. The only thing she hasn't tried was the last resort the doctor offered her – cutting her open and taking part of her rib out.

"The thought of the pain of a rib removal surgery is just nothing to me," Badger said.

"There's nothing that could be more painful than the chronic nerve pain that I've had and the pain I've had not being able to sleep.

"The nerve pain down my arm, it's not like it's so intense like you've just broken your leg or dislocated your shoulder or something.

"It's not that intense pain, but if something is always at you it's almost like listening to the water torture, that rain drop, or a mozzie buzzing in your ear at night."

Badger will be on the operating table for three-and-a-half hours as she will also need to undergo surgery to decompress the nerve in her elbow by flipping it from side of the bone to the other ("two for one surgery" she quips).

It sounds daunting but Badger is no stranger to operations after battling various types of injuries for the past four years. She had a shoulder reconstruction three years ago, a hip operation two years ago and ankle surgery recently after spending most of the season running "bone on bone".

The struggles she's endured, including her ongoing dream to become the first female referee to control an NRL game, is one of the reasons why she's asked the surgeon to keep the rib once it's removed from her body.

"Everyone thinks it was a weird thing to have asked the surgeon for but my thinking was it reflects the pain and the struggle over the two years," Badger said.

"I thought, 'If I can get through this, I can get through anything' and I wouldn't mind having that, putting it in a jar, putting it somewhere in the house as something to refer to and go, 'Nothing is going to be worse than that'."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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