Chronic Pain: 35 Years and Counting
I was diagnosed with chronic pain in 1986 after a number of unsuccessful back surgeries. At the time, I was Director of Public Relations for Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
I did everything in my power to avoid surgery at all costs. I had acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, physiotherapy, pool therapy, tried medication and finally subjected myself to three painful nerve blocks. Unbeknownst to me I was dealing with spinal stenosis and nerve root entrapment which caused me to have such severe sciatica that I could barely stand, let alone walk. I was falling, too.
More often than not I used either canes or crutches at my job and on a few occasions my terrific staff ended up pushing me to meetings using my desk chair. I tried desperately to get back to the job I loved, but the pain beat me up at every turn. My medical rehab team deemed totally disabled for full and part-time work. I remember crying every day for six months after getting that life changing news.
Cronic pain is, well, just AWFUL. It is exhausting, frustrating and often misunderstood by the medical community and general public. It robs you of memory, concentration, sleep, nutrition, financial security and relationships with family and friends. Research has shown it causes huge amounts of stress on the body, more so even than heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Prayer, music, humour, exercise and some medication help me cope. The one thing though that truly helps me, more than anything, is the pure joy I feel in my heart doing chronic pain advocacy work. I have a keen interest in pain education and give presentations to health care professionals throughout the year.
Cancer: My Troubling Family History
There is a strong history of cancer in my family and my mother’s family.
I nursed my own mother through her breast cancer battle and, sadly, she died in my arms in 1975 at the age of 44. I was 21. My mother came from a large family of thirteen brothers and sisters, half of them succumbed to this disease within a 10-year period. All were under the age of 65.
So, as you can imagine, I was followed closely through the years and had many mammograms, MRIs, ultrasounds, needle biopsies and, yes, four lumpectomies – all benign, thank God.
However, on a cold February day in 2018 as I was walking to the hospital for my usual breast cancer screening, I had a bad feeling I couldn’t shake. Somehow I just knew I would get the news that yes, indeed, I had breast cancer. That news came quickly and two weeks later I had surgery – a lumpectomy with removal of some lymph nodes.