I had a dream recently that I was in my doctor’s office and he told me that I have cancer. The wave of relief that washed over me is indescribable.
I remember thinking so clearly, “They know what is wrong with me and they can fix it!”
It is ridiculous for so many reasons, but it illiterates so clearly the state of mind many of us in pain struggle with each day.
It is hard to not let your consciousness absorb all of the pink breast cancer awareness signs and logos that appear each November. On my honest days, I am jealous of all the support breast cancer awareness gets. It must feel amazing to know that an entire nation is behind you as you fight for your health.
The holidays can be a hard time for people with chronic illness and pain. I realized recently that, because of one circumstance or another, I have been switching medications for the last four Decembers. This also means that I have been toughing out withdrawal for the last four holiday seasons.
The holidays bring us endless opportunities for celebration. After 8 years of pain, however, I know the holiday pitfalls all too well. I’m hoping that by sharing my perspective, some of my fellow chronic pain buddies might feel a little pink understanding and support.
Spoons: Many of you have heard about the spoon theory. People with chronic illness have only a certain amount of energy or “spoons” to use each day, and if they blow past their allotment they will pay dearly. As much as we want to be jolly, we don’t get extra spoons during the holidays. Some people actually lose a few because the cold weather causes its own mix of pain.
Please understand that we are not being a Grinch, we are sad every time we say no to an invitation. No one wants to spend the holidays alone. Maybe take this into consideration and plan things that are easier to attend, like a quick coffee visit, bringing food to their house, or offer to babysit while they Christmas shop.
Candy Canes: Many of our holiday festivities include large amounts of glorious food. We bake endless cookies and breads, indulging in them for 30 days. Christmas fudge is one of my greatest joys. But it is also a recipe for disaster for many of us with chronic disease. It has taken me years to learn that I cannot eat or drink what I used to at Christmas dinner — which can be a bit sad. You lose an entire way of celebrating.
So please do not take offense if I pass on your office cookies or glass of wine. I’m not trying to be self-important, just sane.
In the Red: During the month of December, the medical bills show up right next to the Christmas cards in the mail. I dream of the time when I was able to buys special gifts for everyone in my life. It just doesn’t happen anymore. We budget like mad to make sure our daughters’ Christmas is magical. The rest gets the ax.
It can be very stressful to know that you cannot be the Santa you would like to be. Please be understanding when we ask to simplify or deliver in January. It has nothing to do with our love and gratitude for you.
The holidays can be a reminder of what I have lost, but it is still my favorite time of year. My girls and I watch every Christmas special on TV, chase the Shelf Elf all over the house, and wrap toys for kids less fortunate that mine. We spend the one thing I still have plenty of: time together.
It is an entire month of beauty and hope, which is just what the doctor ordered. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, and may your troubles be forever out of sight.
Malia Cole lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her family. She has a blog on motherhood and chronic pain called Labor Pain.
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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.