A Pained Life: Courage

A Pained Life: Courage

Recently Joan was telling me about her friend.

“She’s been through a terrible time.  She has cancer and already has had 13 operations.”

I shook my head in disbelief.

bigstock-Protest-6097212“I don’t know how anybody can go through that,” I said. “Thirteen surgeries! So much pain. Terrible.”

Joan looked at me in astonishment.  “You’ve had 12 brain surgeries.  You have gone through it.  Maybe not cancer, but you’ve been through just as much.”

“No. No.  It’s not the same.”

Joan looked at me in amazement.  “Yeah, it is.”

Talk about denial.

It is not cancer, for sure, but it is pain, day in, day out.  Many treatments, medications, and operations.

But courage?

People use that word, especially when they talk about someone fighting cancer.  They use it after harrowing ordeals; the loss of a loved one, a fire, hurricane, tornado, and other terrible situations.

A novel I was reading had an AA sponsor say to his sponsoree, “Nobody stays sober on cowardice.  We’re all heroes.”

I live with pain every day.  Many treatments, few successes, many more failures.  It is a part of me, a part of my everyday experience.

From the inside, I see myself paddling hard, fighting to stay in place.  Now and then I am lucky.  Something helps.  I get a little further upstream, the pain reduced enough so I can do slightly more for a longer period of time.

Too often it is temporary, and it’s back to treading water, trying to stay in place and not go backwards.

I do not look at it as heroic or courageous, but it meets the definition: Strength in the face of pain or grief.

I read and listen to the stories of others in pain, of their daily struggles.   I see it as courage when it comes to them.

And they tend to see it as I do. It’s not courage.  It’s just the way it is.

Fighting cancer is not so much courage as a biological imperative.  Going towards life by taking up arms against a potentially deadly invader.

Pain has an imperative too.  We all go towards pleasure, away from pain.

Our struggle against chronic pain is a necessity. We seek relief by waging war against pain.

A person can have many operations for cancer, or have chemo/radiation.  How can that not be courageous?  They embrace treatment that may be horrid in its effects, but hopefully has life as it’s reward.

We have repeated operations and treatments in an effort to reduce the pain.  Cure is rarely possible, but any reduction or respite is better than where we were when we started the fight.

It is the human thing –- to go towards relief.  It is natural to mount the fight, unnatural not to.

For us to go through all we do, trying to stop or minimize the pain, struggling to get through each day, to do all we need to do to take care of ourselves, and maybe others too, that is a form of courage.

It is time to embrace it, to realize we are heroes in our own lives, supermen and women, fighting each and every day to merely get by.

The AA sponsor in the novel was right.

There are no cowards fighting pain, only heroes.

Carol Levy

Carol Levy

Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.”  Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.

Carol is the founder of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness”. Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

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 represent 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.

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Authored by: Carol Levy, Columnist

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I think one of the lessons of chronic illness is empathy. We become more sensitive and sympathetic to the suffering of others. It’s not so easy to become compassionate about our own suffering. Lovely article, thank you!


Thank you Carol. I too fight chronic pain everyday, after being diagnosised 7 with Fibromyalgia ayer running the treadmill of massive tests, seeing so many different specialists for so long that could give me to help, being told it v was all in my head and then finally being told I had a disease that was a mystery to many doctors and there was no cure. Yes that had to be one of the most difficult days of my life. I had to dig deeper them I ever have and made a decision that I would fight this disease for the rest of my life .I choose to see the positive in life, I celebrate every good day I have. I only take the extreme Meds the give to me, when there is nothing else to give me, only when I absolutly have too, and I belive a cure will be found. ? I have to believe. ?
Thank you for your article and your string faith and support.