I have been a chronic pain sufferer since an auto accident in 1998. At the time, I had three small children to look after and was a single parent for most of my children’s lives.
I was 26 years old when I discovered what I never wanted to learn; a life with pain for a woman is like being deserted in a crowded parking lot, lying face down on the frozen cold asphalt while shoppers casually walk over you. Never noticing that you are there, that your life, however insignificant, would be successful, hopeful and enlightening. If only society would stop comparing pain to that of an everyday complaint or something only a woman would complain about because she’s weak due to gender, upbringing, educational background, race, creed, and through personal experience.
I went to college with my pain as my side kick in 2001. This challenge was made even harder because of the stereotype that a person is labeled with when they walk into a classroom limping, moaning or simply not appearing in a good mood because the pain makes smiling that much more painful to experience.
A year after my auto accident, I was drug down a 200 foot embankment until the car crashed into a tall, white pine tree. My children were taken and my life became nothing more than the dead leaves that were thrown over a fence to decay. I was a nobody. Then I found hope!
I decided to begin praying and fighting the pain.
Although I was unable to complete my education at Ohio State University, in part due to pain and financial aid running out before I could finish, I began searching for other ways to work from home where I could use special chairs, my tens unit, heating pads, ice packs, ointments and often medications. I started an online business where I could teach, research and write. I have continued to struggle financially, yet I believe there is still hope.
Today, I have been diagnosed with atypical RA, Fibromaliga and a ruptured disc. The doctors have not been very helpful, and this is what I fear is the main problem for people living with chronic pain, primarily women. Doctors place the infamous words “mental illness” in the list of plausible diagnoses because it’s easier to lay blame on the person, rather than on themselves or the medical profession for not going that extra mile, to do more for the patient, to find out what the patient’s pain is. “I’m baffled and I don’t know why my patient has this disorder” – words a patient with chronic pain will never hear spoken from any medical professional. Yet, we need to hear them. We need to know that the doctors don’t know what the pain is so that we can keep searching until we get that diagnosis and learn how to manage, heal and, in some cases, cure it.
I don’t yet have a definite diagnosis for my pain. I’m scheduled to see another surgeon in January where I’m sure I’ll hear those words feared to hear again: “It’s not that bad” or “It’s normal aging” or “If your life was happier, your pain would lesson.” .
I’m a visionary and a determined individual who doesn’t think that pain is the defining character of any person. It is a health problem, one that has a name and often treatment. Women with chronic pain deserve the best possible care. We have cancer without the death sentence. We deserve so much more.