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Amy F. – No Pain, No Gain

No pain, no gain. How many of you have heard that phrase as it relates to your workout? Gotta push those muscles to burn the fat. Work through the pain and you’ll see the results. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.

Well, what if we flip that phrase a bit on its head and think of it for those of us dealing with chronic or other illnesses? We definitely have the pain, no question about it. And if your treatment works out well and you’re “better” then I suppose that could be considered your gain. Makes you look at working out as a piece of cake in comparison to what many may be going through/have gone through with different medications, treatments, procedures, etc. Feels sometimes like the road to gain takes you through a whole lotta pain and you wonder exactly how long that road is and how soon you’re going to get to your gain.

As those of you who have been following me know, I have been dealing with pancreatitis for the last five years. And you also know that for the last year, I have been dealing with non-stop pain and have been in and out of the hospital several times, seen doctor upon doctor, tried more medications than a pharmacy typically has in stock – all to no avail. All pain, no gain.

FINALLY, last month a new specialist determined that pancreatitis was not the culprit causing my pain last year, I now have chronic pain syndrome. Well thanks so much for figuring it out, just sorry that NOT ONE of the countless doctors that I saw in 2014 were able to and all they kept doing was pumping me full of narcotics. And guess what, those pain pills were actually making me worse in the long run instead of better. So not only did I go an entire year without answers, but my “treatment” actually made me worse. Yay me! But now I do have a diagnosis and a new pain management doctor who has completely changed up my treatment regimen and fingers crossed, this will get me to some gain.

Because of all that I’ve gone through I really want to make others aware of what chronic pain is in the hopes that they do not have to live so long with misdiagnoses, medications or treatments that are in fact making their body worse instead of better and PAIN. A caveat here as I begin, while many may be suffering from this syndrome, there is obviously no way I can address every single situation or treatment but want this to be if nothing else, a starting point to get people asking questions and understanding what those of us suffering are going through.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than six months. It can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating. And the biggest thing to realize – about 100 MILLION Americans suffer from chronic pain. And that’s just those of us who have been diagnosed, there are so many others out there as I was still looking for answers. The reason for the difficulty in diagnosing chronic pain is that everyone feels pain differently. Plus, many chronic pain conditions have symptoms that mimic those of other illnesses so, as with me; patients have to go through many tests, medication trials and procedures to narrow down the playing field.

I want to take a step back to put that number into perspective for people in comparison to diseases that are more widely heard of. The American Cancer Society projects an estimated 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2015. Heart disease, the number one cause of death, has an estimated 80 million people dealing with some type of the disease in the US as per the Heart Foundation. According to the American Diabetes Association, over 29.1 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Makes you look at chronic pain in a whole new light doesn’t it?

Chronic pain hits you with a double whammy – you’re not only dealing with the physical elements, but it is also extremely taxing on your emotions and psyche. And the emotional toll of chronic pain can actually make the pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger and fatigue interact with chronic pain and may decrease the body’s production of natural painkillers. Not to mention that these feelings increase the level of substances in your body that amplify sensations of pain so that it turns the whole thing into one big vicious cycle.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, the best thing you can do is ask your doctor to refer you to a pain management specialist and talk to them about what you’ve been going through. Continuation of pain medication over an extended period of time is NOT the answer. It actually causes more harm to your body than good by completely screwing up your body’s pain receptors to the brain. So not only do you have the chronic pain, your body doesn’t know how to process pain overall correctly anymore. Anything that may hurt another person slightly could be excruciating for you.

The other half of your treatment should be speaking to a psychiatrist or psychologist to help with the emotional aspects of the condition. Sometimes the medications used for treatment actually overlap and can help symptoms on both the medical and emotional sides. Speaking for myself, it has helped immensely to have someone who can reinforce that I’m doing all that I can do and that it’s not all in my head. Yes, I was actually told by a physician that since I had such a good attitude while in the hospital instead of going postal, the whole thing must just be psychosomatic. As this is a nice, family-like site, I will refrain with what I said in response and leave it to your imagination.

Ironically as I am learning more about my new condition, the movie Cake with Jennifer Aniston is just coming out. In it she plays a woman living with chronic pain and watching it felt like looking into a mirror. Her movements and emotions really hit the mark with me. That said, she definitely had a slightly different way of getting treatment that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others. But she got to interact with Sam Worthington which has definitely been missing from my treatment and I would not turn down that aspect if it came along. Again, as I mentioned earlier, her character’s situation is unique to her, but what I applaud about the film (besides just her portrayal, hello Academy for Oscar nod ….. no comment) is helping to further make people aware of this condition. Not only for those of us living with it, but to give those living with or interacting with us an insight into a small piece of what we’re going through. No, we don’t just lie around in bed because we’re lazy and don’t feel like getting up until noon. And taking two aspirin won’t cut it. Nor will grinning and bearing it. Or focusing on something else. We’re in pain people and it’s real and it SUCKS!

I’m hoping with this that I’ve been able to raise the awareness of this condition that others may find help and understanding and not have to go through what I have to reach this point. I am staying positive as always that this new treatment regimen will do the trick. Unfortunately this is not a syndrome that is “healed” but with the proper treatment and therapy, it can get to a place where it is more manageable. Again, each case is different so the treatment and time will vary and hopefully for me, it will be sooner rather than later. Because for all the pain, I feel like I am due for some serious gain as I live My New Usual.

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