(Editor’s Note: National Pain Report is pleased to welcome David Becker as our newest columnist. David is a social worker and advocate for chronic pain patients, as well as a political activist. He will be writing about ways chronic pain patients can get involved and empower themselves.)
It was spring, 1996. While waiting for some fast food at Nathan’s Restaurant in Yonkers, New York, I realized I had been all too tired over the past weeks.
Soon after, I saw a Chiropractor/Nutritionist who diagnosed me with chronic fatigue syndrome. Weeks later, a gastrointestinal specialist diagnosed me with Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Then a few months later the pain from fibromyalgia began, which was diagnosed by an Orthopedist in the summer of 1996. My personal odyssey with chronic pain had just begun.
Initially, I focused on improving my diet, taking supplements and obtaining body oriented therapies. These treatments helped the fatigue and GERD, but the pain from fibromyalgia seemed to wax and wane with no overall improvement. Then, like many other people in pain, I sought several treatments from Chiropractors, Endocrinologists, Acupuncturists, Energy Healers, Nutritionists, Massage Therapists, Naturopaths, Herbalists, Rheumatologists, Immunologists, Pathologists from Washington DC, Northern Virginia, New York City and Westchester.
In addition, I took herbs, vitamins, supplements, special diets, underground medicine, some far- out electrical therapies, oxygen therapies, blood irradiation, and naturopathic remedies.
Despite the many treatments, the pain had taken over too much of my life and had become oppressive and intimidating. I was at a loss to understand how pain could last so long and be so refractory to a plethora of treatments.
Through 1998, I remained hopeful that some treatment would work. How could it not?
But the year passed without progress. In 1999, my hopes began to fade. By 2000 I was becoming desperate for real progress in my fibromyalgia. The GERD was gone and the fatigue only came when my diet wasn’t carefully controlled.
At one point during the summer of 2000, I remember being on the floor of my living room believing that I would soon go insane if I wasn’t able to wrest myself from the fibromyalgia that had become so prevalent that I couldn’t move without experiencing pain. I prayed to either get better or not be around anymore.
Then I decided to make a last ditch effort to get better. And so in the summer of 2000, through prayer, fasting, and the grace of God, I became fibromyalgia free and remain so to this day.
Fast forward to 2008. I was working as a social worker and began to notice that many of my clients and relatives were suffering pain and not obtaining adequate pain relief. I started to go with clients to see their doctors and began researching the specific pain conditions my clients had. I was having success in convincing doctors to provide better pain care. However, I was not “getting” the parlous nature of pain care despite my own experience with chronic pain.
One of my clients had pain from a spinal cord injury and neuropathic pain. She was intelligent, knowledgeable, motivated, articulate, and had pain for over twenty years. To me she had all the qualities that would enable one to obtain the best care possible.
Still, I was naïve not to realize the terrible challenge that pain could be and the toll it takes on people’s hopes, dreams and spirit. We had a number of discussions about her condition, the fact that it interfered with the many things she hoped to do, and the way it prevented her from the normal enjoyment of life people take for granted.
I went with her to see two doctors. During the first visit, the doctor pulled me aside and told me he thought her pain was mostly fabricated. I whispered in her ear immediately what he had told me. He gave her a referral that her insurance wouldn’t pay for.
Soon after we saw the second doctor. With icy coldness, this doctor and the chair of his department were about as disinterested in her pain as a person could be. In fact, I have yet to meet two doctors more frozen in the ice of their own indifferentism when it comes to pain.
Despite my protests, the office visit soon ended. She was very hurt.
Then it hit me: Pain is the unfailing bow as arrow after arrow finds your heart. And so the pain of pain found me:
“Unending pain, a grievous wound that is incurable.” Jeremiah 10:19
My “shock receiving capacity” when it comes to pain was dramatically altered. A self-transformation occurred. And so on that day I got a wake-up call and I decided I had to do something to change the state of pain care.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.