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Sunday, March 30, 2014

One More Thing

Those of us who live with chronic pain are usually wondering if one more thing will come along to complicate out battle with chronic pain.  We wonder is we will develop another medical problem.  We wonder if we will be required to do something that we know will cause us more pain.  We wonder if someone in out family will become ill, requiring us to take care of them.  We are always trying to prepare ourselves for just one more thing.  And often, we think that if that one more thing shows up, we just won't be able to deal with it.  Well, I have news for you.  The people I know who live with chronic pain are some of the strongest people I know!

There is always going to be one more thing.  That's usually the way that life works.  The unexpected has a way of showing up at times when we just feel like there is no way we can possibly deal with it, or continue to function because of it.  And, when we are through bemoaning our fate, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and tackle the new one more thing.  Like I said before, those of us dealing with chronic pain are a lot stronger than anyone, including ourselves, give us credit for.

During the course of the last couple of weeks, I have been dealing with that one more thing.  I can tell you that at first, I thought that it was going to kill me.  I honestly thought that death was just over the horizon, and there was nothing I could do about it.  The fear of not knowing what was going on with me was almost worse than the actual problem.  What was my one more thing?  I started having severe chest pain.  And believe me, when I say severe chest pain, I am not exaggerating!  I felt like I had the proverbial elephant sitting on my chest.  It felt like someone had reached through my chest, grabbed my heart, and started squeezing with all their might.  

The first time that this hit me, there was no question but that I had to go to the Emergency Room.  I knew that I was having a heart attack.  My dad had numerous heart attacks, so I knew what it looked like.  After many hours in the ER, the doctor told me that I wasn't having a heart attack, but she didn't know what the problem was.  Because of this, I was admitted to the hospital.  The cardiologist came to see me that morning, and told me that I needed to have a cardiac catheritization.  I was loaded into an ambulance and driven to one of the hospitals in Louisville for the procedure.  The cath showed that I indeed had a blockage of 50-60% in two branches of the same artery.  They do not stent the artery until a blockage reaches 70%, so mine is being managed with medication.

I thought that this was the end of it.  I thought that this was an isolated incident, and this wasn't going to come back.  I thought that this was one more thing that I could put on the back burner.  I thought wrong.  Within a couple of days the pain came back, and I made another trip to the ER.  They treated me for the pain, and sent me on my way.  And the pain came back again.  The doctor I saw this time informed me that I was having panic attacks, and prescribed me ativan.  He told me to take one of the pills, when the pain started and I would be fine.  Well, the next time the pain came back, I took one of the pills, and I was incredibly calm.  I was in severe pain, but I was incredibly calm about it!

The next onset brought another trip to the ER and another hospital admission.  This time, they informed me that they believed I had an ulcer.  They told me to set up an appointment for an EGD, and once again, sent me on my way.  By this point, my family was tired of the whole thing.  The next time that the pain hit, they refused to take me to the hospital, telling me that they weren't going to do anything that it was pointless.  I literally sat in my chair and cried for four hours straight.

The very next day, at just about the same time, the pain came on again.  This time, I insisted that my son take me to the hospital again.  I told him that I wasn't going through the same ordeal I had gone through the day before.  I also told him that I wasn't going to our little, rural hospital again.  I told him that we were going to one of the larger hospitals in the area.  This time, I finally got answers, along with some much needed relief.

According to the doctor I saw in this hospital, I am having spasms in the artery in my heart that contains the blockage.  He explained that it is a very painful condition, and that it can sometimes lead to a heart attack.  He also said that he thinks I might have an ulcer, so an EGD is coming very soon.  Finally!  I had some answers!  I left the hospital with four more prescriptions.  I have two different types of nitro.  One I take everyday, and it is long acting.  The other one I take when I have an attack.  So far, it seems to be helping.  I haven't had an issue in two days!

So, this is my current one more thing.  At first, I thought that I couldn't handle one more thing.  I thought that if I had anything else to deal with, it would leave me a blubbering mess in the middle of the carpet.  However, I'm stronger than I give myself credit for.  I'm going to deal with this one more thing and keep going.  I'm going to do the things I need to take care of myself.  Understanding what's going on with me helps.  And, even though I dread it, I know that another one more thing is somewhere down the road.  That's life!  Even though I'm not looking forward to my next one more thing, I know that I'm strong enough to deal with it, just like all pain warriors are strong enough to deal with their next one more thing, too.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Goodbye, Old Friend

Yesterday, I learned that a friend of mine from high school passed away.  Immediately, I was awash with both sadness at her passing, and beautiful memories from our high school days.  There are days when I still feel like a kid in high school, and wonder how and when I became old enough to have college age children.  But there is nothing like the passing of someone your own age to bring your own mortality crashing down upon you.

This beautiful woman touched so many lives at All Saints.  Not only was she beautiful on the outside, she was beautiful on the inside, where it really mattered.  In 1978, I was a shy, awkward 15 year old.  I had an emotional breakdown at this time, and the pressure of returning to my home high school was crushing.  Luckily for me, my parents were able to send me to boarding school, where I could get a completely fresh start.  My friend was one of the first people I met.  I had never known anyone like her, and I was completely shocked that someone like this would actually want to be my friend!

I know that my life wasn't the only one that she touched.  This is a person who will truly be missed by all who knew her.  I only wish that I had had the courage back then to tell her how much she meant to me.  So often, we allow fear to stop us from letting people know how they have touched our lives.  We don't want to embarrass ourselves, or the other person.  We don't speak out due to fear of how our message will be perceived.

I have decided that I don't want to let another day pass without letting those who matter to me know it.  There is nothing to feel embarrassed about by letting another soul know that they have been a blessing to you.  There is nothing shameful in telling someone that you love them.  We need a lot more of that in this life we are living.

I also hope that I can learn to appreciate the life I have been given.  Yes, I have some pretty daunting physical problems, but the fact of the matter is I am alive!  I have been blessed with a husband who loves me.  I have three wonderful sons, who amaze me every day.  I still have my mother, who is my dearest friend in this world.  I have friends who care about me, and whom I care about in return.  I even have my 2 cats and my dog, who make me laugh every single day.

I hope that everyone who reads this take a moment to reflect on the blessings they have been given.  We all have something in our lives to be thankful for.  I also hope that you take the opportunity to tell someone that you love them.  You will gain so much more from it that you can imagine.