Small Miracles: Pain and Emotional Healing

Small Miracles: Pain and Emotional Healing

By Cynthia Toussaint.

After 35 years of high-impact chronic pain and fatigue, I’m still often convinced I’ll never come to terms with the havoc it’s wrought on my life. But last week I had a major glimpse into the possibility of acceptance and healing.

Cynthia Toussaint

On Friday, I was in the middle of my heavenly morning swim when I noticed a refined, sophisticated gentleman in the “walking” lane. From his body placement and movement, I immediately knew he was a high-level dancer.

I moseyed on over and introduced myself, telling Shane that I was a dancer who wanted to meet a kindred spirit. He lit up, and we got into a lengthy conversation about the dance world. Shane was intrigued and saddened by my story. He told me I looked great (this means a lot from another dancer!) and he was duly impressed that I swim so much.

We talked about Shane’s long career as a dancer and how much he now loves teaching the art at a nearby prestigious school. With tears welling, he shared that his wife recently suggested he retire, but that would mean “I’d lose my identity.” This forged an immediate connection, and I advised him to never retire. I shared that when I was forced to quit dancing that huge hole left me utterly lost.

After twenty more laps, Shane quietly commented that he’d also taught dance at UC Irvine, the school I’d told him I sustained the ballet injury that triggered my CRPS in 1982. Both stunned and excited I immediately asked him if he knew Raymond Jackson, the teacher whose class I was injured in. Shane knew Ray and everyone from my Irvine dance days. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. You see, Ray was my favorite ballet teacher (an actor, too, just like me!) - and he had great hopes for my career. I never got in touch with Ray after CRPS took hold because I thought it would be too painful for me and I was concerned that even though it was an accident, the guilt might greatly burden him.

A lot of healing happened for me Friday morning at the pool. Thinking back, it’s because I’ve never truly considered my life valid since losing my greatest passions and identity. I don’t want to just be a tragedy in other people’s eyes. I don’t want people I’ve worked with and respected in my pre-illness life to pity me.

Meeting Shane opened a window of self-discovery. I now see that just because I had to stop performing and appropriately moved on to a different path, my life is no less valid than it would have been. I’m even beginning to see that I’m not just a too-sad-for-words story. Triumph has a few chapters too.

When we got out of the pool and headed toward the dressing rooms, I was alarmed by Shane’s movement. I commented, “your neck is really stiff and hurting.” This kind, gorgeous man confided with a sad laugh, “I fell off of a cliff and broke my neck five years ago.” With an I-get-it expression, we embraced – and only let go when I could no longer stand.

We carry on – or we don’t. The first path is unspeakably painful and takes super-human strength. There are a million reasons to give up, to quit outright. Ultimately we choose the hero’s journey. We wish our lives were easy, but they never will be now. We wish we could have happiness, but accept moments of joy and meaning instead.

Chance meetings, like the one I had, give me new insight and hope. Let’s keep ourselves open to the possibility of small miracles that forge us on.

Cynthia Toussaint is founder of For Grace, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that works on issues facing women in pain. She is also a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Cynthia Toussaint founded For Grace in 2002. It is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to gender disparity in the treatment of pain. She is also a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

newest oldest
Notify of
Bob Schubring

Cynthia, that’s the best writing I’ve seen from you.


Thank you for sharing, because you will inspire people.


There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up, thou hast no healing medicines. Jeremiah 30:13 KJV

Sad prophecy for the pain patient, formulated “policy” from those who do NOT suffer…… continuous pain.

Twenty years of continued life involvement, with sufficient medication in the form of “evil” opiate medication, destroyed by those collaborating behind closed doors.


We are a collection of our experiences - this reminds me of how my basketball career abruptly ended in ugly fashion too.
You will always be that fabulous dancer, Cynthia. And I will always be that ballplayer. Very nice story, thanks for sharing that! Beautifully put as always. You have a real talent for expression.


Emotional healing, for millions of us, STARTS with sufficient prescribing of opiate medication within the populous of pain patients that are no longer getting adequately prescribed medication. Those with the recorded use of evaluated, examined and with zero other methodology for pain relief. Granted, other forms of “treatment “CAN be effective but, for those with multiple neck/spine surgery, incurable, pain generating disease without the possibility of “active function” statistics state that no other form of treatment meets the expectation of pain relief that opiate medication CAN deliver. Other forms of disease that after deadly medication previously prescribed either did not work, or cause more side effects than the injury itself. There IS a use of adequately prescribed opioids that do not cause subsequent health problems and harm. Just the opposite, we face insurmountable difficulties. The insufficiency of 90mme daily to “one and all” is utterly ridiculous causing pain and distress, worry ,with NO other path to choose for the already suffering patient. There are always “future” drug research that may take the place of opiate medication but, for.GOV to enforce suffering upon otherwise reasonably comforted pain patients, this policy is asinine. Temazuneb, a non narcotic “pain” reliever has received the “fast track” for R&D by the FDA to assist those with continuous pain. An obvious admittance that relief for patients IN intolerable pain is quickly warranted.Maybe it will work for fibromyalgia and back patients, maybe it will not. What about the patients who are losing their employment, NOW. What about the patients unable to meet their utility bills, the inability to be socially active and academically active in their scholastic events of their children. Those with no “savings? Those unable to meet their medically necessary recurring obligations? It IS obvious that .GOV’s political agenda outweigh the personal needs of the “compliant” pain patient without ANY regard to REAL subsequent problems? Those with substance abuse and use situations need a totally different agenda to actually HELP them before presrcibed pain patient populous overruns those that sought pain management by going through ALL protocol to get or seek pain relief. I know of 6 friends that have “lost” unemployment just because .GOV “knows what is best for them/us”.Call it what it is. Politics.. Mis-guided+ politics. .DOT GOV and the presidents PROMISE to not forget the silent people evidently was a lie. People who had responsible, gainful employment WITH the aid of due diligence prescribing by our physicians. Those who choose or are forced into asylum through illicit drug use need be “treated” with a totally different agenda. Not an agenda to punish ALL who are prescribed pain relief…..sufficiently because of disease or injury. INCURABLE conditions that ONLY the symptoms can be treated, some what effectively!Those already unable to “work” have not a CLUE how they are gong to function in any capacity. Those who are already pushed beyond self reliance. Stop the ignorance. If DEA can’t regulate and control the illicit drug users, then the agency always has the prerogative to push… Read more »

Tim Mason

The Curse on Sin - Genesis 3:16-19
Human suffering began because of sin. (Genesis 3:16-19). Corruption set in, and things that promoted the original harmonious and pleasant existence was changed. There was an increase of the pain of childbirth and hard labor became necessary to eke out an existence. We now experience birth defects and sickness; our bodies wear out and finally death. We must labor to survive. (Romans 8:20-22).


Dear Cynthia, first off… I’m glad to learn the you are finally back in the pool swimming! Good for you! You have triumped since your last post.
Your story has hit home and I am in tears. My injury then my disability came in the midst of my own passion, 32 yrs of nursing and expected many more to follow!
I was so very lost with not knowing my identity anymore. It took years of work and intermittent therapy to get over that hump. Although, I continue to struggle with it regularly. I could go on and on but I just wanted to say Thank You once again for helping me know that I am not alone with those issues.
It truly is amazing how when strangers paths cross like yours with Shane… we can see a little more commanderie and a light at the end of our tunnel.
Strive on beautiful warrior, Maureen


So beautiful! I’m almost speechless. It strikes such a cord about how we have to grieve for the loss of our “before ____” state, but that there is still life.
Dang. I must have something in, ummm, both my eyes.😭❤️