Friday, 24 December 2010

pain for the holidays

Since I forgot to renew my opiate prescription before I left for the holidays, and since I am subsequently curled up in the fetal position at my mom's house unable to move from excruciating pain and withdrawal symptoms (watery eyes, hot flashes & chills, MONDO headaches, excessive yawning), I thought I'd post about pain.

Chronic pain. The thing that follows after cancer, but no one seems to talk about. The thing that plagues my everyday life, but doctors can't seem to figure out. Chronic pain is eating up my life.

Now, everyone's physiology and background is different. I only speak for myself. I'm sure there are miraculous people out there that go through chemo, surgery, and radiation relatively unscathed and untouched. Cancer treatment lite, I like to call it. If you fall into this category-- lucky duck-- just scroll on down. If not, let's share our experiences with chronic pain instead of masking them, as young adults tend to do in an effort to be "normal" within their peer group. Perhaps the more dialogue is opened, the more physicians and loved ones will be able to understand and help us.

My chronic pain seems to be twofold:

I have deep somatic pain due to scar tissue in my hip, where the tumor was, and right clavicle/shoulder, where lymph nodes were plucked during the Thyca surgery. This pain is dull, aching, and absolutely unrelenting. This is my main issue and the thing that compromises my quality of life the most. When untreated by opiates, as it is now, this pain consumes me-- I can't focus on anything else. I avoid physical activity completely. It just does not let up. It's maddening, I tell you.

[Scar tissue from radiation has also caused a myriad of problems for my digestive system and bladder... but that's another painful story for another painful day]

I also have neuropathic pain all over my body, though mostly felt in my joints, presumably from 8 months of chemo toxins damaging the protective sheaths around my nerves. This pain feels sharp, stabbing, and sometimes tingly. It's rather unpredictable-- I get sparks of pain everywhere from my chin to my toes. I also experience neuropathic pain around my neck incision, where nerves have been cut & damaged. The skin there is numb to the touch, but even gentle pressure creates a sharp pain.

To combat all of this I use daily opiates, light stretching, medical marijuana, and hot baths. The opiates, obviously, are the only thing I've found that allow me to live a semi-normal, semi-pain-free existence. Unfortunately, these have all sorts of drawbacks, including increased dependency, side effects (I hate the grogginess), and nasty withdrawl symptoms. Plus, they're pricey. You need insurance. You need employment. You need a functional body to stay employed. You need opiates. Etcetera.

Until now, I had no idea just how much I rely on those little orange pills to function.

Do you have chronic pain, even years after treatment? How do your doctors respond to your concerns? Have you found anything that particulary works for you?

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