by Suzanne Stewart
We each feel like our own pain is the worst and that what we are going thru is the hardest and most devastating. In a way, this is partially true. That is because when it is “YOUR pain” then it IS “YOUR” WORST. What I mean is that everything can be challenging when you feel like your own story is the only one that’s difficult like this.
Consider Brian Greene’s idea, as he writes about the string theory in clear English: He points out that, “in an infinite universe, each of us is at the center”. Exactly, my point and what I’m trying to convey here, today. For example, one person may feel that whatever they are going through with chronic pain is the worst pain they’ve experienced in life…ever!, the patient may feel this way due to the possible negative outcome of certain treatments or the lack of treatment and/or empathy, or understanding. One person could feel that their situation is the very bottom of the “pit”. The true “fires of Hell” very well may be his/her situation. The outcome could be a “loss” of the use of his legs; to him this is the worst thing that he could imagine. For another pain patient, or an RSD/CRPS sufferer, she may be afraid and feel that her suffering is the hardest that anyone can imagine because RSD/CRPS is #43, which is so very high on the McGill pain scale. She may scared because she is so young and has her whole life ahead. For her, this disease is taking so much; it is a thief of sorts! She could lose so many possibilities in life. Maybe she has indeed lost so much already? What about the younger ones who’ve never been able to experience true love or the dream of being a mother and holding that baby for the first time? Maybe the dream is something different but what if they don’t ever get to do the things that I got to do prior to my pain? There is much to lose at each and every stage, when your life gets harder, the pain gets worse. It even gets more difficult to find things that make you smile again.
Today it feels to me as though life for patients with chronic pain has become much more challenging. We have to worry about going to different specialists and having a legitimate “Pain Dr.” now instead of just going to our General Practitioners or Primary Care Docs. We must have and visit a Pain Dr. every month or 2 months, if we are on any kind of Opioids. Today we must do urine tests, the million questions (yes, I’m exaggerating), the signature or the signing of a contract to prove that we will not seek out any other Dr. or even get any other medications for pain from any of our other Physicians. Therefore, if we have a surgery, our pain meds must be authorized by our current Pain Physician, before we can get them or take them!
The new “CMS strategy for use/misuse of Opioids” is happening as I write this article. Let me explain, this is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -they intend to curb opioid misuse and abuse. But in the meantime they could cause needless suffering to many of our most impoverished and elderly persons in pain.
There were posts made by me and Letters sent out by the U.S. Pain Foundation & RSDSA, regarding this. There were tweets, posts, letters etc. going around to get emails out by Friday, March 4, 2017; to help change some of this strategy before the deadline at midnight Friday. The new Strategy doesn’t go into effect until April 7th, 2017, but we needed many emails to go out. We needed these emails to help fix what may be a problem for many chronic pain sufferers who rely on Opioids for pain relief. (*For more information visit: The U.S. Pain eNewsletter, Feb 1, 2017 “CMS publishes new strategy to combat opioid misuse”)!
There are obstacles coming toward us from all directions it seems right now. There’s also the way that Pharmacists can be “the Dr.’s” now and they, along with our insurance companies, can override what our own physicians direct us to take for pain medications.
Things are changing and getting more difficult for many persons living with high pain illnesses. I have had people come to me in the groups that I administrate. They have asked me “What can I do? The pharmacy wants me to come back every 5 days to get Opioid pain meds that I’ve been on for years? I cannot drive and it’s an hour away from my house! What can I do?” I feel terrible because I can’t “fix” it for them.
I’m writing letters, tweeting & emailing, but no one is listening to me either; not yet. I don’t mind if they change the way the medications are made, such as changing it so they cannot be crushed, broken or changed in any way into another form. That’s fine with me because I am a legitimate pain patient, who takes my pain medication responsibly at the right times and on the correct dates. But God forbid if you do anything different or wrong! I was questioned because my pharmacy took 6 days to get my medication in! My Dr. wanted to know why “I waited 6 days to get my pain medication”. I felt like a criminal or like a scared child! This was no fault of my own and in fact, my husband tried to check around but nobody else had my medication in during those dates either. I was punished because I’m the one who started getting very ill for those 5 days! I had to go through that because even though I go to the same pharmacy monthly and for the same medications; they didn’t have my specific medications that month! When I returned to the Pain Dr. appointment, of course he wanted to know why there was a “lag” in time for picking up my meds. It’s just getting harder, more scary and more confusing. I’m tired and I can see why people feel like giving up sometimes. But we cannot give up! I will not ever give up! I have to keep on fighting for my rights and for all of our rights!
After my heart surgery in February, 2013; I found out that my RSD/CRPS had traveled to my heart as well as my whole left side. I have so much pain in my neck, knees, lower back, hands, feet, arms, legs etc, from several of chronic pain illnesses or issues. At times, I’m afraid, sad and I get lonely too. But I know that this is only “MY” worst, not anyone elses. I only truly know my own private pain. We all have our own health and pain issues that are specific to each of us. While I can’t take the pain “journey” for you, I can go through it “with” you in a personal way. I can be your friend, listen to your heart and because of computers, I can virtually reach out to you via my groups, my blog and even articles.
Every one of us has real fears, anxieties and true pain. I recently read a story about a poor woman in terrible pain with great fear. I do understood her fear (to a point) and her pain (only from as far as I can draw from my own experiences). Then I read about another, younger woman, in the same kind of horrible pain. In both of their personal stories, deep fears and pain came through. The younger woman feels that she has so much to lose, as she hasn’t even started her life yet. Some of us have already had our children and we’ve had “real” jobs or a career for a while. We may have even been through some good &/ or exciting adventures prior to becoming chronically ill? Maybe we’ve done some fun things in our lives or accomplished a goal? Some of the younger people living with chronic pain have not been able to achieve any of those things, not yet, anyway.
What I see through my patient advocacy work with chronic pain and Invisible Illness; is so much love and compassion. Sometimes it is dampened and even overidden by our real fears and the feeling that we are “the person worse off”. We each may feel that “it’s not fair” or that our pain is “the worst”. But it is our own personal worst; which is different for every individual. When I think of pain in this way, I realize that we all have essentially the same inner feelings. If I can stop thinking of my own situation and my pain, and step back for a moment; I’m better able to empathize with others who live with pain. I know that many of us share the same inner feelings of solitude with our illnesses at times.
We cannot give up on ourselves or each other. We must not stop trying to fight for a life that we each deserve.
Suzanne has lived with a Systemic CRPS & several other chronic pain illnesses since a MVA in 2002. Prior to being disabled from chronic pain, she was an Interpreter for the Deaf at a hospital & worked with Deaf children. Since 2005, Suzanne’s been a patient Health advocate, support group leader & Mentor. She continues doing these things today, but also does public speaking, awareness events and she’s a Writer/blogger & an Ambassador for the U.S.Pain Foundation.
For entertainment she creates advocacy videos & uplifting ASL cover song videos on You tube and she writes in her own blog Tears Of Truth (Suzydukettes.wordpress.com).