This week I had a “catch up” call with my family doctor. I haven’t seen her in months as she isn’t seeing patients in person due to Covid-19. I had to bring her up to speed on how I am feeling. She had scheduled the call for ten minutes. Let’s just say it went a bit longer. Ok, a lot longer! First she reviewed my chart and all the reports sent to her from my “other” doctors. She saw that since we last met in person, I’ve had three additional surgeries, two sets of back injections, been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and am now forced to wear hand splints. Need I go on?!?!?
“How is your pain level most days,” she asked.
“Everyday is slightly different, meaning some days are better than others…but everyday I am in pain. I wake up in pain, I battle the pain all day and I go to bed in pain. It’s exhausting, it’s depressing and it makes me angry. Each one of the things is bad enough on its own, but combined, it’s a cocktail no one should have to drink.”
My doctor, who has been very supportive, sighed. I could tell she was feeling almost as frustrated as me.
“Ok, let’s go down the list and see what we can do about each of your issues.”
We reviewed all my “ailments” and what medications I take for each one. It’s not easy finding meds that help, but don’t react to other meds I take. And to top it off, I don’t like taking medication. If I can avoid it, I will. If I have to take it, I take the smallest dose possible. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life lugging around a suitcase full of pills. Not that I’m going anywhere thanks to Covid! Geez this year really blows, doesn’t it?!
My biggest issue right now, is the nerve pain I experience. It is constant. Sometimes I will get a surge that radiates through my torso and then travels up to the top of my head and down to my toes. It’s like pins and needles except that they have been replaced with swords and daggers. It literally takes my breath away and I can’t move till it subsides. It’s scary and debilitating.
“I think we should get you another assessment at the pain clinic. I know you are already seeing someone for the epidural steroid injections in your back, but I’d like to see if there is a treatment they can perform for your nerve pain.”
Great, I thought. I am open to anything. My doctor said she would send in a referral right away and would email me some initial forms for me to fill out. She also prescribed some new nerve medication with enough side effects to wipe out a small village. She also sent in a request for yet another M.R.I. Seriously, if I have one more M.R.I, I am going to stick to the fridge! I thanked her very much for taking the time with me and told her as soon as I received the “pain” forms I would fill them out and send them right back to her.
Little did I know that there were 18 pages of forms, all dealing with pain. There were diagrams of the human body that I had to indicate where I felt pain. I had to put X’s where the pain was the worst and shade in areas where the pain radiated. Let’s just say that when I finished, the entire body was coloured in and there were a lot of X’s. I guess I could have saved time and just drawn a giant X over the diagram, but I thought that might be rude.
There were questions like:
What does the pain feel like? Circle all the words that describe it.
aching throbbing shooting stabbing gnawing pricking burning tender exhausting radiating tender miserable numb cramping unbearable squeezing sharp nagging
I circled them all. There were questions about how the pain affects your mood, your relationships, your energy level, your quality of life. There were questions asking if the pain makes you feel nervous, stressed, anxious, fearful, depressed and sad. YES. YES and YES!!!!!
When I finally finished the forms and emailed them back, I was pretty wound up. Day to day, I deal with my pain. I push it down and try not to let it rule me…even though most days I fail. But after filling out all the forms and answering 18 pages of questions, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and anxious.
Is this really my life now? Has cancer not done enough to me already? Will I have to live with chronic nerve pain now too?
Am I angry? Yes, but I have learned that anger is an emotion that doesn’t help you accomplish anything. It sucks your energy and taints your outlook on life. I have always been a positive person. I would rather laugh than cry. I would rather find the humour in any situation than acknowledge the negativity. I always try to put a smile on my face to “hide” the pain than to appear sad, angry and frustrated. I find that if I “pretend” to feel great, that I actually start to feel better. The mind is a very strong tool. It can help you to overcome almost any obstacle. I was always told growing up that anything i wanted to do was just “mind over matter.” That if you “think you can” then you are a whole lot further in your goals than if tell yourself “I can’t!”
My life is very different than it was before cancer struck. I have many more obstacles do deal with now than before. But I have learned that life is not about who you once were. Life is about who you are right now and the person you want to be.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.