Cynthia is a chronic pain sufferer who founded For Grace which held its recent Women in Pain Conference in Los Angeles. Cynthia offered the National Pain Report some reflections about the conference and the issues facing women in pain which are happy to publish.
I’m reflecting on the physical and emotional cost from our Women In Pain conference this year.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. It was a great event, a total home run. We’re getting better feedback than ever. Words like “heart”, “love” and “care” punctuating most everyone’s comments. I love that the event helped so many women find a better path to wellness. I loved our presenters, panelists, media coverage, live and webcast audience, volunteers, on and on. It was pure magic.
But let me tell you. It was hard work. And not just for John and me. My “sisters in pain” who we plan the conference with each year worked their behinds off. And that work comes at a cost.
Besides me, two of my sisters, Toni and Anne, have been in extreme pain flares since conference day. In fact, Anne spent a day and night in the emergency ward just after – and Toni’s been bedridden with out-of-control pain, rescue meds and heating pads at her side.
My exhaustion was extreme leading up to the conference due to stress kicking off my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. The night before the event was a nightmare as last minute work kept me up till after midnight and my wake-up alarm sounded at 2am. I was in a haze all day, and that’s the way it is at every conference. And per usual, my pain spiked.
I finished my thank you calls over the weekend and most every woman in pain I spoke with was wiped out or worse, in a horrible flare.
It hit me more this year than ever that I and my beautiful sisters are sick. Really sick. I mean scary sick. We’re passionate women hell-bent on helping other women. We don’t do anything half-baked. It’s pedal to the metal for us, can’t do it any other way.
This year’s planning was especially hard. Our committee was smaller due to illness and family caregiving obligations. That and a number of my sisters couldn’t attend. To pick up the slack, John literally didn’t come to bed for several weeks leading up to our special day. He and the kitties camped out in our home office, getting a few hours of sleep. He’s a champ, but my “worry meter” over his health was out of control, amping my stress, pain and fatigue.
As we figuratively limped across the finish line this year, John and I for the first time questioned whether we had another conference in us. Are we helping enough people to make it worth being in a coma-like state for a couple of months? Can we keep dealing with the log-jammed work that makes us even busier post-conference? Are we being irresponsible by making my sisters sicker?
My brilliant, beautiful sister Anne answered these questions and more during a phone call yesterday.
Sensing my apprehension about next year’s conference, Anne lovingly reassured me that our one-of-a-kind event helps too many women to fold the tent. To every problem I presented, she calmly countered with a reasonable solution.
Too much last-minute physical work? We bring in our volunteers early to stuff bags, pick up materials, pack the van, etc. Not a big enough planning committee? We recruit energetic sisters in pain who have the vim and vigor to help carry on the vision. Need more financial support? Funny enough before my call, Anne and her best friend were planning a For Grace fundraiser – one that will be fun, help off-set conference expenses and inspire a boatload of women in pain. Perfect!
When I hung up, I was smiling. Anne, and all of my sisters, care enough to do the good work whether it puts them in a flare from hell or not. If they’re resilient enough to host this annual conference, who am I to stand in the way?
Bottom line – I love my sisters and I don’t know how I’d make it through life, let alone a conference, without them. We act as a true, loving, supportive family. Reaching out a hand when it’s needed, celebrating triumphs and comebacks together, crying when we can’t bear the pain one minute more.
We get it, all of it… together. Oh yeah, there will be a 2016 Women In Pain conference. It’s our “family reunion” … and y’all are invited.