Monday, February 28, 2011

A day of searching for PAIN relief

Today was the end of a THREE-MONTH battle with insurance to get needed epidural shots to give me SOME relief. It should have been a happy day of sorts. But instead, all it seemed to bring was more battles. My pain management doctor had recently moved to a new location so my husband was rushing around as we hunted for an address. Long story short: we went to three different locations (one of them was STILL under construction) and KNEW the hunt was still on to find my doctor. It could have been a moment of laughter, but PAIN took even that small bit of relief away. I was very frustrated, feeling helpless, and not properly handling my OWN health care. Because exhaustion from NO sleep and constant PAIN caught up with me, I'd had to turn these issues over to him. 

It did NOT help that–after arriving at the facility and signing all the papers–I was told, "You are patient No. 32!" I felt like someone had slapped me in the face! Instead of getting MAD, though, I forced myself to ask the young woman her name. I do feel that for a brief second, she got my message. It angered me and took a bit more of my self-esteem with it. But as I waited, my dear husband suggested an answer to the staff when my number was called. So an entire waiting room heard this:
"Patient #32–BINGO–that's ME!"

This was my single moment of JOY today. I walked in as a NUMBER but definitely came out as Martha.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seeing Chronic PAIN in others...

Last night, I attended a memorial service for the sister of a dear friend of mine. Her sister passed suddenly at the age of 48, and deep sadness hung in the air as people searched their hearts for an answer to this tragedy. My friend is married to her life-time partner who also suffers from terrible Chronic Pain, and we have become Prayer Warriors for each other. Mid-way through the service, I noticed this man was in the midst of a major attack of PAIN! He was struggling so as to not draw attention to himself, but PAIN WAS  determined to be Heard. I felt so helpless, wanting to ease his suffering and knowing all I could do for him was PRAY. Later, I watched as he silently left the service.

PAIN does not take a vacation or give you a temporary PASS while you are going through tough emotional times. In plain words, PAIN will not leave. For those of you who suffer with Chronic Pain, we all struggle to get through the day and there are many days when we feel backed up against this wall of PAIN and can't fight back. But for me, I will continue taking the battle on because the thought of just giving up and allowing PAIN to rob me of any possible JOY is simply unacceptable!

I prayed hard for my friend's husband last night. As we left the service, he, too, stepped past his own battle and told me, "I will be praying for you tonight, so you just hang in there!" 

Please know I pray for each of you, too. Hang in there and keep looking for JOY.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Taking a HARD look at PAIN

People will tell me now after all these years how they really can SEE Pain on my face. I hear the words, keep moving and try not to focus that much on those words. But when I STOP for a second, place the battle to the side and LOOK in the mirror, then I KNOW what they are really saying!

Today my husband and I had a JOY moment with our dear friends. A photo was taken of us and when I saw it posted on the computer, all I could think was, "Oh, God, I look so Tired and Old!"

Let's face it, very little sleep, never being able to RELAX or just take a brief break from the PAIN, fighting insurance to get needed medical help, it ALL wears a person down. So I felt ashamed for a bit about how OLD I looked in the photo and then it hit me. All the lines on my face, dark circles under my eyes, the half-hearted smile I force on my face, these are all BATTLE scars from the war I wage every day against PAIN. In some ways, I actually feel PRIDE, knowing I am still here, determined to NEVER give up and–no matter what–keep looking for just a bit of JOY.

This is my life, and I am blessed in so many ways. I DO have to live with this horrible Pain, but it will NOT beat me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Waiting for PAIN shots...

Last December, while getting Christmas decorations ready to put on the tree, I suddenly turned, and a PAIN shot through my back and sent me straight to the ground! There was nothing I'd done in particular, except move, and that was all it took. So I began the process of calling my pain management doctor's office. I had absolutely NO clue what lay ahead. My insurance company has been complaining for YEARS about my NEED of epidural injections on a repeated basis and had begun denying approval for them. 

As a person who lives with Chronic Pain, hearing news like this can take you to a LOW point, like you would never believe. I spent hours on the phone, crying in agony as I begged for help, all the while knowing the person on the other end of the phone was doing what she could, and all I could do was WAIT.

So I waited and had to make FOUR trips to the ER for ANY possible temporary relief of the PAIN. It seemed that ALL the medical profession understood my needs, but somehow along the PAPER process, I was getting LOST in the shuffle. It has been a type of cruel and unusual punishment of sorts to wait, wait and still wait. 

After THREE long months, enduring PAIN that REFUSES to go away, I received a call telling me that insurance had finally granted approval–an answer to PRAYER. So many friends have told me how they had been praying for this to happen, then they'd ask me, "How have you managed to wait THIS long?" 

What else can a person do but WAIT?

Oh, I have raged, had major melt-downs, felt so hopeless. Then I would just reach down LOW inside my soul and find the strength to NEVER give up. I would MAKE myself do anything...wash the dishes, fold clothes, walk outside for a moment...ANYTHING to stop the PAIN from winning.

So within the next two weeks, I hopefully will see my wonderful pain management doctor and get my TEMPORARY RELIEF shots. I know PAIN will never leave me, but I pray for grace to keep moving forward, even daring to DREAM of taking a brief trip with my husband and to find a moment of JOY.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How DO others cope with Chronic Pain?

Whenever I see people in Chronic PAIN, I always wonder about their coping skills. They probably range from walking the floor, late night TV viewing, calming hot tea in those lonely hours of the night, Internet surfing, sitting under a hot blanket,  perhaps MORE pain medication, and PRAYER.

It's not for me to judge anyone as to how they fight their own private WAR with Chronic Pain because you do not KNOW what others are going through until you've walked in THEIR shoes! I think it's one of the reasons we are so able to "tune in" to a fellow human being in PAIN. 

But people will JUDGE, and the unthinking words they say can do great damage. People who've known me for years have seen me and said, "There's NOTHING wrong with you. Gee, you look just fine!" My come back answer is very simple: "LOOKS can BE deceiving!" 

Now as I go through some of the hard days and people see me, they have compassion in their comments. Some will offer to say a PRAYER for me. I THANK them and cling to that offer of help through PRAYER.

Please know for those of you suffering daily with Chronic Pain, my prayer goes out to you! I pray you have even a SECOND of relief each day and find a moment of JOY. Do not GIVE UP.  Fight BACK hard against PAIN! 

I, for one, will NOT let PAIN BEAT me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Searching for HELP from PAIN

One of the TOUGHEST parts of the PAIN battle is the journey through the MEDICAL profession. It took me two long years of going from doctor to doctor and hearing things like "Oh, it's just a pulled muscle...""You have MS..." "You need to have BOTH hips replaced..." The very worst was "IT'S ALL IN YOUR MIND!" 

I would leave a doctor's office after hearing words like that and feel total despair. I started to question myself and wonder, "AM I CRAZY?" Let's see, the PAIN sure did FEEL real. It was getting harder to WALK most days. And the burning and numbness continued to get WORSE. Finally, I realized THIS was REAL, and I had to find the RIGHT doctor. 

So many people with Chronic Pain will search for YEARS to find a doctor who truly understands, listens and BELIEVES them. I vividly recall the FIRST time my Pain Management Doctor told me that she knew WHAT was wrong with me–that I had probably severely damaged the sciatic nerve when I fell from the tree. It was like a MIRACLE had finally happened! She didn't have a cure for me, but I knew she believed me and had LISTENED.

My heart goes out to all those who are suffering with Chronic Pain and who are still desperately searching for proper medical help. Throughout my journey, I have seen my own doctor filled with frustration that she can't CURE my PAIN and MAKE it go away. All she can do is offer me medical help that gives me temporary relief. For that, I am thankful each day as I battle back at PAIN. 

It hit me a LONG time ago that PAIN was going to stay with me forever, but something DEEP inside me decided: IT WILL NOT BEAT ME!

Yes, the PAIN is still here, BUT SO I!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why me, Lord? Why?

Here I am, after all these years, STILL asking this question on my lowest of days. Let's face was ME who fell out of the tree! But I'm learning, as the years go by, that my REAL question  is WHY must I suffer so much? Why ME?

I'm not perfect. I make mistakes all the time in lots of things. My heart is good, and I try hard to treat people as I would like to be treated. I work everyday to live a faith-based life. So why can't I get a PASS on CHRONIC PAIN?

The simple fact is this: I am no different than the thousands of people around this world who fight the Battle of CHRONIC PAIN. We each have different ways of coping, and all of us have our failures. The key for me is to keep getting back up each day and take the FIGHT back to PAIN!

But it is NOT an easy battle. All we can each hope for is to find the grace to not allow PAIN to BEAT US and to always look for just a moment of JOY.  Today I walked outside–even though the PAIN was trying to chew me up–and enjoyed the sunshine. I pray we all keep working to find JOY.

I DO live with Chronic Pain, but it won't BEAT me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Say ONE for me, and I will say ONE for you!"

There is a silent language that flows among people battling chronic pain. Words usually are not spoken. All it takes is a GLANCE, a brief second to see the eyes of another weary and tired from battling PAIN. Yes, we also can spot each other in our slow walk, a touching of an aching back, the lines of exhaustion on a face, needing to sit down from the PAIN, and yet the determined struggle to get past the PAIN.

Today, my Good Friend helped me draft a PRAYER section for my Chronic Pain blog. I wanted this to be a part of my blog because I know without a DOUBT that it's only by PRAYER that I make it through each day. When I am walking the floor in the dark of night, sometimes the Prayer is simply, GOD HELP ME. This is my faith I lean on, and as I've been on this PAIN journey, people would see me and ask, "What can I do to help you?" I would usually just say, "Oh, I'll get through it" and keep on going. But a thought began to surface and so I started responding with this simple request: "Please, just say ONE prayer for ME, and I will say ONE for YOU. That is ALL I ask!"  

At first, people were speechless when they heard these words, but all promised to do the ONE prayer! I don't know if they all said the ONE prayer, but for those who did, each prayer helped  me and continues to. 

So now when I meet someone who is suffering with Chronic Pain, I find the courage to speak, ask how their day is and tell them to HANG IN THERE. Then I say: "Tell you what, say ONE prayer for ME and I will say ONE for YOU!" There is no look of shock, but instead the eyes speak a huge THANK YOU...someone cared enough to say a prayer.

I have to live with Chronic Pain each day, but it WILL not beat me! May God give everyone the courage to battle back against Chronic Pain. My JOY for today has been to share "Say ONE for me, and I will say ONE for YOU."

Fighting PAIN on Valentine's Day...

I woke yesterday morning from another miserable night of battling PAIN, not caring really about the JOY that Valentine's Day brings to so many people around the world. Let's face it, I am worn thin from so much hurting and even the IDEA of sharing a card with my husband was not in the works on this day. When you go through endless days and nights of PAIN standing right beside you, being there to drain you and wear you down, it's pretty easy for ANGER and a "I don't care attitude" to settle in fast!
Yesterday, I went to see my neurosurgeon, seeking his help in the nightmare battle I am having with my insurance company. This doctor helped to save my life many years ago when I became septic from a device implanted to BLOCK the pain signal going to my brain.  He knew my reason for being in his office, heard my intense frustration, and went into action quickly to help me.
First of all,  he had the delightful task of telling me that I will live with this PAIN for the rest of my life and that the ONLY brief relief I can get is through epidural injections. But by the grace of God, this man KNEW the treatment I need and rapidly dictated orders and a FIRM letter to the insurance company. It hit me that I'd probably NEVER  thanked him for saving my life, and I stumbled around to find the RIGHT words. Finally, I said my thank yous. He looked at me, paused for a moment, and said, "Martha, you are a FIGHTER!"
Those few precious words gave me my JOY for the day! As I left his office, there were other PAIN warriors sitting and waiting, some in wheelchairs, all with the weary look of PAIN on their faces. As I passed, I prayed a silent prayer for them. God, please help them endure their battle so they, too, can find a moment of JOY today.  
So PAIN did not WIN on Valentine's Day. I will keep fighting. Keep hurting. And keep praying to find the FIGHTER inside me.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Devil, go sit on a TACK!"

As a little girl, when my mom would see me start acting up or misbehaving, she would say, "It's the old DEVIL, up to no good! You tell him to go SIT ON  A TACK!"

Her words have stuck with me to this day. When struggles in my life seem like they're getting out of hand or my "thinking" ability is leaning in a wrong direction, I hear Mom speaking those words she taught me so long ago. I use them still and crazy as it seems, THEY HELP!!
So here I am in this horrendous pain cycle that just seems to be going downhill fast!  Another night of no sleep and walking the floor, sitting in the dark and struggling through this battle, determined not to let PAIN be the victor. I felt weak and tired from the battle and truly at a point where I just wanted to give up! Suddenly I heard those WORDS ..."DEVIL,GO SIT ON A TACK!!" So I spoke them out LOUD with a renewed strength in my soul, then I prayed: "God, please HELP me through this night." HE did, and PAIN did not beat me yet.
Trust me, I'm no saint, just a woman who had a terrible accident and is left to battle chronic pain for the rest of my life. As this battle wears on, I know there are TRUE choices I can make, and my choice is to battle the PAIN daily. When I went to my local church this morning, not really caring to be there because all I could do was still HURT, I found my moment of JOY. Among the people, I saw an older couple  who'd recently been through a terrible health scare. The wife had had a heart problem which led to a lengthy hospital stay. I recognized the concern in the husband's voice as he kept asking her, "Are you OKAY?"  YES, she growled at him, I AM FINE! Laughter filled my heart because it was just like a moment between my husband and me!

Joy–I will take it ANY DAY over the PAIN!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hanging in there

Do you ever have one of those PAIN nights that seem to be endless? Last night was one for the Books for me. It started at 2 a.m. with me walking the floor, drinking hot tea, standing by a heater, hoping and praying this would make the PAIN settle back to its normal pace. I tried not to wake my sleeping husband, but I believe this battle has given him a special ALARM CLOCK of sorts, and he got up to walk the floor with me, giving me assurance that PAIN would lose the battle this night.
I was dragging emotionally today, tired from the hard fight PAIN had given me and not feeling there was anything to be happy about. While we were at a restaurant, PAIN showed up again but in a "different" manner. As we left, I saw an older couple making their way toward the doors. The wife was gently leading her husband in, guarding his walker with her hands to keep him from falling. Their journey to those doors seemed to take forever, as I stood holding the door open and watching each PAIN-FILLED step this man took. I saw PAIN in another human being, recognized each slow step, how hard it was for this man to attempt and yet there he was, out with his loving wife, determined to have lunch together. My JOY came today as they finally reached the doors, and this man looked at me, as if we BOTH knew a secret of sorts. He smiled and quietly said, "Thanks, young lady, you HANG in there!"
"YOU HANG IN THERE"...simple words with powerful meaning. I prayed  for this man and silently thanked him for showing me JOY today.

I do live with chronic pain, but I'm determined that PAIN WILL NOT BEAT ME.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pain frustration

Anyone who lives with chronic pain knows what severe weather changes can do. You dread to see bad weather coming because the PAIN battle gets extra hard! Today, while talking with a dear friend, out of frustration I blurted out: "By God, I will get through this!" Instantly, those words hit me, and although I could still hear my friend chatting away, my mind was taking those words apart. 

Were these words of ANGER? PAIN had really played a hard game with me today, and so out came the words. But I started thinking, and it hit me...YES...I will get through this, and it is by God's grace.
You can be very spiritual, and yet living with Chronic Pain will put your faith to the test! I have stood in my kitchen on one of my WORST days, stomping and kicking the floor, while looking upward and yelling, "Is this the BEST You can do?" Then instantly, I feel shame for feeling like that. But as I go through this journey of Pain, I continue to learn that it's okay to be angry, cry, and RAGE against this invisible foe–PAIN. But I don't let those feelings take over. Instead, I choose to battle right back and work hard to find just one single moment of the day that I can feel joy. 
I have to live with chronic pain, but PAIN WON'T BEAT ME.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pain is my constant companion...

If I had a dollar for every time these words come out of my mouth, well, I would probably have a larger bank account!  PAIN–it's been a constant part of me for the last 14 years!  PAIN entered my life when I climbed a tree one day, got up about 12 feet and, while cutting a limb, fell, landed HARD on my butt and split the sciatic nerve. My husband had begged me the day before to just WAIT, and he would get to it the next day.

I grew up in the country and had climbed many a tree. So why would this one be any different? IT WAS!! After the fall, I lay on the ground, realized all my parts were still with me and crawled to the patio. It was three months before I told my husband what happened...because that was when my toes went numb and PAIN was here to stay. I learned real fast how to HATE the PAIN. Why was I having to live like this? Well, that answer wasn't too hard...I CLIMBED THE STUPID TREE!!!

Why do I say PAIN WILL NOT BEAT ME?  Is it the deep faith I have or my strong-willed determination to never give up? Or knowing I do not want to stop existing and just allow the PAIN to take over and ruin what time I have left with my dear husband? We have been married 35 years, and I pray there are a lot of years still out there for us. So I guess you could say it's ALL these reasons. I lost count over these last 14 years of how MANY times I have said to my husband, "I AM SO SORRY FOR CLIMBING THE TREE!!" 

I have been through nine surgeries, two pain implants (one resulting in a massive staph infection that almost killed me) and numerous epidural shots (these are the ONLY thing left that give me a bit of relief). It's finally hit me–I WILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE PAIN. But I REFUSE to let it BEAT ME. It's strange. When I go for my epidural shots and get the "margarita shot," as the nurses call it, I am trying with every fiber of my being to stay awake and be AWARE. Because in those brief seconds, I am realizing PAIN IS NOT HERE! 

Don't get me wrong. I have days when NOBODY wants to be around me! I wake up in pain and go to bed in pain. Many nights of waking at 4 a.m. and just walking the floor, trying to do things to get PAIN off my mind, knowing, of course, that PAIN is NOT going to leave. It's here to stay!

Yes, I have pain meds, and I have no shame in taking them. But I also realize I have a choice in that process: either I can be numbed out of my mind, or I can force myself to handle the meds properly, still have PAIN, and still have a LIFE.

PAIN WILL NOT BEAT ME. It will shake me, rattle me, make every bone in my body hurt, drive me to distraction,change my ability to really have complete JOY in life, but it will NOT beat me! I pray every single night for help to GOD, and I know HE hears me!

I am just a person, like so many others, who live their lives daily with pain. We PAIN people...well, we must keep going. After all, in some form or another, there is always HOPE. HOPE that we can get through the day and not let PAIN BEAT US. HOPE for the next day that waits. HOPE for the courage and strength to do battle with PAIN and come out the winner.