My story is one that is not so rare, as I am finding out.
I have suffered with chronic pain since 1992, when I received my first autoimmune disease diagnosis – bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis – a painful condition in my wrist.
I was treated with NSAID medications, physical therapy, and cortisone injections. But nothing would really control the pain.
My second diagnosis came shortly thereafter when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which was affecting my knees and back. More medications, more injections, and I continued to spiral down the autoimmune illness path.
In 2002, I was given another diagnosis: Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This led to more prescriptions, epidural blocks, and finally radiofrequency lesioning to kill the nerve tissue in my back that controlled the pain signals from my right big toe (the location of the RSD).
At one point, I was on 14 different prescriptions, lost my job, and was having to pay out almost $800 per month for health insurance.
In 2006, I was given another diagnosis — rheumatoid arthritis — and still more medications.
Then in 2007, I suffered what was first classified as a heart attack, but is now referred to as a vascular spasm because there was no blockage or plaque in any arteries, and no damage to my heart. It was then than I was taken off any NSAID medications completely.
Thinking that nothing else could possibly go wrong, I was sadly mistaken. In 2009, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Since I was already taking medications to block pain signals for the RSD, no new medications were added.
In 2012, during a periodic colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with diverticulitis. This year I had a short hospital stay for diverticular bleeding.
Over the years my meds have either been reduced or discontinued. I now take two medications for the RSD, six meds for the heart, and two meds for the rheumatoid arthritis.
But, life is good. I am 70 years young, have started working again part time, and have tried to become somewhat of an elder advocate — helping other seniors obtain help with their medications, food, or housing.
I also enjoy RV camping with my better half. We have two grown children who are honest, dependable, and trustworthy.
I have days that I just want to pull the sheets over my head and hide, but I cannot do that. I have made an obligation to myself and to God to do the best I can to help anyone who needs access to all the knowledge that has been thrown upon me throughout all my diagnoses.
I have learned how to get prescription medicines at no cost through the pharmaceutical companies. I have learned which medications are helpful and which ones to avoid. I have learned how your diet can affect your quality of life. I have learned how stress can make a bad day worse. And I have learned who my friends are, my true friends, who will help me no matter what.
So I try to pass this information along to anyone who needs this knowledge to help with their current or future situation in life. I have learned how to use the internet both for work, research, and just for fun. My partner in life has been one of the biggest resources of help and encouragement.
Most people do not believe that there is anything wrong with me when they first meet me. It takes time before I am comfortable enough to share my story of the torture of screaming, crying, and yelling because of 24 hour pain that cannot be relieved – even when taking Lortab every few hours.
When I see someone in that kind of pain, they know I understand. So my mission is to educate everyone as much as possible so that they can help themselves and pull out of the depression that goes along with chronic pain.
Some people might call me a drug addict. I will admit that I must have the medications prescribed by my doctors. But I never abuse the medications that are given to me. If anything, I take less than prescribed.
So to everyone out there suffering, please know that you are not alone. There are many of us who have been there, and made it through to the other side. Life is good because God has made it that way.
Jerrye Lail lives in Loganville, Georgia.
National Pain Report invites other readers to share their stories with us.
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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.