For the past several years I have been suffering from chronic pain in my lower back. I have had numerous tests, x-rays, etc., to no avail. No diagnosis can be found for this pain. And, since I am allergic to most pain medications, the only pill I can take for my pain is aspirin, and always taken on a full stomach. Nothing else even comes close to working better.
I write about this because I have found, through my research for some type of cure, that this is not an unusual phenomena. Many people suffer from chronic pain without any way to alleviate completely the pain. Many have gone through surgeries, tests, and years of ups and downs, emotionally, physically, psychologically.
Studying and reading about others with chronic pain only makes me realize how very fortunate I am. This, in turn, keeps me in a positive attitude, something I think is especially important if one has to deal with pain on an ongoing basis.
Laughter is always the best medicine, and some mornings when I try to climb out of bed I have to laugh because of the ridiculousness of my body and situation. My doctor says I need to exercise more, but how can I when I can barely stand up for 5 minutes without shaking from the pain. Walking through a Las Vegas Casino becomes a game of, “How far can I go before I have to sit down at a penny slot machine?” Hey, don’t knock it – some days I have won $20 by just playing 25 pennies. My husband and I find joy in simple things, and laughter in the ridiculousness of our situation. Sitting down because of the pain, becomes a game of chance.
So, I can’t exercise, though I can still touch my toes when I bend over – ironically my back doesn’t hurt when I bend over. Yet, when I get out of bed in the mornings I feel as if I have run the marathon, played a round of tennis, or even been tackled in a game of football. Of course, none of these things have happened, but my body doesn’t appear to know this. It aches as if I had done one, and sometimes, all of these things. Some days my husband and I just have to laugh as I stand up from the couch and have to wait a moment or two before I can walk. We laugh because this is a body that at one time could walk for miles in 5 inch heels and never cry “ouch”. This is a body that could do flips, jumps, and backbends without any sore muscles the next day. And this is the body that raised four children, kept a house clean, and cooked large meals without even a whimper of pain.
Yet, even with this pain I am so fortunate, and very grateful, that I can still walk up and down stairs, maybe stopping for a few seconds here and there if there are too many stairs – have no difficulty sitting up while working on my computer or watching a DVD, or even sleeping. At least my back doesn’t give me any pain when I am in bed. However, that is not to say I don’t have any pain in bed – my left shoulder has decided that it needs special attention at night, and at times my right hip chimes in. They certainly let me know they don’t want to be ignored.
So how did all this come about? Years of dance lessons, years of putting my body through contortions it should never have been put through. I have watched some of the “Cirque de Soleil” performances and can only think to myself “ouch”. They, too, will someday be where I am now. The body was not made for pushing and pulling against the body’s natural posture.
But, as I said, I can still walk up and down the stairs, cook meals (even if I have to rest from time to time as I cook) and with the addition of a bench to sit on, I am still able to celebrate Celtic Weddings. I can read and visit countries all over the world through my books. I can write from either a desktop or laptop computer. I can play with my dogs and visit with my children. And I have become very good at sitting in the car as a passenger while my dear husband drives me places.
What can’t I do? Well, I can’t shop in department stores unless they have areas with benches or chairs to sit on. (Why are there so few chairs in department stores?) Of course, I never really liked shopping in Malls. The internet has now become my Mall. I can’t go hiking or run a marathon, but I was never one for outdoor activities. And I don’t travel much, except by car. I never did enjoy airplane travel but am blessed that I have been to England, Wales, France, Switzerland, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. What more do I need? Living in Las Vegas gives me the chance to see Venice (The Venetian and The Bellagio), Paris (The Paris), Egypt (Luxor), New York City (New York, New York) many different Lions (The Mirage and the MGM), Dolphins (The Mirage), and lots of fish tanks. And, best of all, it is only a few hours by car to Lone Pine (where many westerns were filmed); Santa Monica Beach; the Shakespeare Festival in Utah; and Lake Tahoe (the location of all of Todd Borg’s wonderful mysteries).
Living in Las Vegas has also given me the chance to have a swimming pool in my backyard, something that my doctor says is good for my back. And, best of all, it doesn’t hurt when I am in the buoyancy of water. This would not have been possible in Seattle. So leaving the wonderful inclement wet weather (wonderful for a writer) for the dry hot weather of Southern Nevada does have its perks.
So what do I do now? Chronic pain will be with me for probably the rest of my life, but so will the laughter, the positive attitude, and the joy of just doing what I do best – writing, reading, preaching and teaching – plus – I also have a very legitimate excuse for not doing something I don’t want to do. AND that ain’t half-bad!