PainPosted: December 27, 2015
SLIDE 3: PAIN IN EXCHANGE FOR A HIGHER PLATELET COUNT
Life has been a challenge for the last five and half weeks. On November 19th I had my semi-annual physical with Dr. Chapman, and thank God I did. My platelet count had fallen so low, 98, the surgeon might refuse to operate unless I could bring that count up to at least 110. But how were we going to bring my platelet count up, when the primary reason the platelets had fallen was the anti-inflammatory I had been taking for the pain of my arthritis. So Dr. Chapman told me to cut out all of the Ibuprofen I had been taking, and reduce the number of Celebrex from two to one per day. I had no idea how much the anti-inflammatory had been helping with my pain, until I had to stop taking them. I went from having an occasional bad day to every day as a difficult challenge.
SLIDE 4: SMILEY FROWNY FACE CHART
I don’t like that smiley frowny face pain chart. I mean what is the difference between pain at a 2 or a 3, or even 4 – really!? And since pain is experienced in our heads how can I compare my pain to some chart that for all world looks like it is supposed to be some kind of objective measure? Like I can choose a number on that chart and compare my pain to someone else’s pain? What I do know is that if it hurts enough to wake me up at night, and then if I can’t relieve enough of the pain to go back to sleep, the next day is going to be a crumby day. Pain in the day time is easier to manage, not fun but easier to manage, although constant pain even at a relatively low level drains my strength. There is only just so far I can go before pain exhausts me – about eight o’clock at night.
SLIDE 5: PAIN OF DEPRESSION IS HARD TO BEAR
Now I know my experience is not unique. I am not the first person to experience pain nor will I be the last. All of you know what it feels like to hurt. Especially I want to acknowledge the pain of those who suffer depression, because so often their suffering is discounted. “It is all in your head!” “Pull your socks up and get over it.” All pain, friends, is in our heads. That is where we experience all life, everything! The psychological pain of mental illness is no less real than any other pain.
SLIDE 6: MANY SOURCES OF PAIN
Sometimes there is an organic source for our pain – like there is no cartilage left in my hip, and so the surgeon will physically perform surgery to replace or repair a diseased joint. Sometimes our pain results from an injury, an accident, and we perform surgery or set a bone and then allow time for the healing of damaged tissue. Other times a growth or an infection becomes the source of our pain, and we operate or use antibiotics or any number of other medical protocols to intervene in the disease and help return us to health. And sometimes we cannot operate or reconstruct some nerve damage, especially in a person’s back, or neck, but like with Judy Cameron and Zig recently there are injections, pain blocks that can relieve pain for weeks some times for months and buy some time pain free.
SLIDE 7: ALL PAIN IS WORTHY OF BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY
The point I want to make is that all pain is worthy of being taken seriously and some hope offered for relieving the hurt. Judy Cameron this past Sunday was relating her experience at the Spine Center. She reported in at 5:30 in the morning, and all of the staff and the nurses were helpful and sympathetic. Then the anesthesiologist came in to see her, and as Judy said, “He could immediately tell I was in pain, and he said, ‘You are in pain aren’t you?’” Judy’s spirits were lifted. Someone was recognizing and acknowledging her pain and taking her seriously.
SLIDE 8: JUSTIFY OUR PAIN
So often in a medical situation, when the personnel show us the little smiley frowny face pain chart and ask us, “what level of pain are you in?” it’s like being asked to defend ourselves or justify our pain, as if we cannot be believed. And maybe our pain isn’t an 8 or a 9 or a 10, but we’ve been in pain for so long, we just don’t want to live that way any longer – and a kind of despair sets in. All pain is worthy of being taken seriously and addressed with kindness and some hope of relief.
SLIDE 9: MEDICAL COMMUNITY CONCERNED WITH THE ABUSE OF PRESCRIPTION PAIN MEDICATIONS
I know the medical community is concerned with the abuse of prescription pain medications. Last Spring I think the treatment of my own disease was mishandled by a physician and a couple of nurses who didn’t want to take seriously the pain I was reporting. The nurses kept telling me that I had to tough it out, and their “Nurse Ratched” attitude poisoned the Physician’s judgment. It’s like they thought I was just angling for more drugs, and so they didn’t listen. As a result I spent two and half months in physical therapy trying to justify my pain, when there was no amount of physical therapy or “toughing it out” that was going to heal a hip that no longer had any cartilage in it. If they had listened sympathetically, and they had been willing to order a couple of more tests, they might have discovered the problem in my right hip six months earlier.
SLIDE 10: TAKE SERIOUSLY THE PAIN OF OTHERS
As human beings we are called upon to take seriously the pain of others. We are encouraged to respond with kindness and love. Our job is not to demand that people justify their pain to us, but rather to humbly listen, and when we have the power, to relieve pain.
SLIDE 11: PAIN CAN BE IMPORTANT
Now let me acknowledge we cannot heal all disease. We cannot relieve all pain. The pain of adolescence, growing up, is ours to use in becoming an adult person. The pain of sorrow and grief, when our parents and loved ones die is a gift to help us fathom the secrets of life, death and being human. Non-chronic physical pain is a gift to help us, so we know when something is wrong. We do not want to mask pain that is our body’s message to seek medical treatment.
SLIDE 12: MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT
Paul lived during a time, when effective medical treatment just wasn’t available. Medication for pain was almost unheard of. We do not know what physical malady Paul was suffering. And I do not want to misinterpret Paul’s words to say, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” Life is painful enough, let’s not suffer any more than is necessary. There does come a time, when God’s answer to Paul is a word of hope: “My grace is sufficient.” We will endure and survive, because God’s grace is sufficient.
SLIDE 13: FALL ASLEEP IN MY ROCKING CHAIR
God’s promise is not that every disease can be cured. We do not recover from old age. We are all mortal and one day we will die. I have this wonderful fantasy that I will fall asleep in my rocking chair still enjoying good health, at the age of ninety-five and just not wake up. We might all hope for such a gentle and peaceful exit from this life. In the Catholic faith there is even a formal prayer for a peaceful death.
SLIDE 14: WE ARE NOT ALONE – THANKS BE TO GOD
God says, “My grace is sufficient.” When we experience pain God is with us, God’s grace is sufficient. In life, in death, in life beyond death, we are not alone, thanks be to God.
Allow me to close by sharing an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s Poem on Death:
SLIDE 15: ON DEATH
You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
God’s grace is sufficient.