On pain and carrying on

Dealing with chronic pain requires taking things one day at a time
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To those of you who are suffering with chronic pain and showing up to your life, day in and day out as best as you can, today I want to say “I see you.”

For the past year or so, before the scope and sternum surgery that removed the tumor from my airway and declared me cancer free, and for the months since, I have been dealing with chronic headaches and nerve pain that is always there, sometimes putting me flat on my back and other times relenting just enough to allow me to do something other than think about the pain. I’ve been doctoring, researching, trying medications and treatments, changing my diet, justifying it as a repercussion of the trauma my body endured and crying in frustration because I want my life back to the way it was before.

Today I feel like I’m finding a light at the end of the tunnel, help through physical therapy and check-ins at Mayo Clinic, and I’m feeling hopeful. Hopeful enough to realize that maybe it’s time to share it here. Because people on the street, or at the grocery store, and, of course, in my circle of family and close friends, they ask me how I’m feeling. And, in the spirit of being honest, I’ve made a promise to myself after what I’ve been through, to not beg off on that question. In the spirit that my story, even if it’s not pretty right now, might help someone else.

And so, I tell them: I’m still recovering. I’m hopeful I’ll get to the other side of this.

But man, when you’re in the middle of it, in the middle of work that needs to go on, in the middle of motherhood and trying to be a good partner instead of a sick partner, in the middle of wearing out the optimism, putting off big plans not to mention the laundry, and worst of all, shushing my children when I should be dancing with them in the kitchen, it’s hard.

Because it turns out that the level of their voices, their enthusiasm, temper, frustrations or needs don’t quiet down because we aren’t feeling well. In fact, I think, these children might amp up just to see if we’re still the momma or daddy they know us to be. Turns out we still want to/need to be a parent even when it physically hurts to raise our voice or comb their hair. And the house seems small when we so desperately need a rest, especially when they find us at the moment we’ve finally fallen asleep, or snuck away for a shower. They want to climb in the bed or get help with doll clothes or need a drink or to tell us how her sister wronged her. And we listen while our body aches or works so hard to heal it feels like we’re drowning…

And so this is another lesson I’m learning in compassion during the past year or so of getting rid of cancer and trying to heal up a body that is screaming at me. Because I’ve been smiling and carrying on as best as I can despite it, it occurred to me that there are people around me doing the same thing day in and day out, working and raising kids, taking care of aging parents and businesses, serving on boards, continuing to show up while coping with physical pain or mental illness that tries its hardest to break them down. And when you ask them how they are, they will say, “Oh, just fine, thank you.”

And so today, while I’m feeling good and hopeful, feeling like I have a plan and that I can see the other side, I just want to tell you that you are strong and brave and doing good. I pray you get well if you can, and if you can’t, you find relief from the pain and a peace to the chaos.

And while I’m here, thank you a million times to the partners, family and friends who are fully and completely here for us, to pick up when and where we can’t.

Here’s to one day at a time and a better tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “On pain and carrying on

  1. Thank you for honestly sharing your journey. The world would be a better place if more people were open about their challenges and struggles as well as their triumphs.

  2. TY, Jessie! Many, many carry invisible burdens. TY for acknowledging that. From someone with RA, I wish you peace and renewed energy!

  3. Hello from Aberdeenshire, Scotland

    I read and enjoy your internet posts all the time and really like the way you write and explain!

    I am sad to read you suffer with headaches and neuritis now that your hospital treatment has finished and send my best wishes for a solution to at least the headaches, nothing worse trying to keep straight and level and there is a storm brewing in your soul.

    I write to say that you are not alone in your struggle after hospitalisation, therapy and continual ‘watching’ in case something is going on again. Our daughter Lisa after chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma now suffers with joint pain and Raynards in hands and she too tries very hard to be always a good Mum to 2.5 year old Finn, sometimes like you I am sure almost a crying point with pressure to perform!

    Fortunately you both have good family and friend support and those on the ‘outside’ love and wish you well at all times. Take care and keep smiling. Lynda x


  4. Jess, Its taken reflection to respond but here’s what I came up with.
    There’s a story about “Two Horses”. They live in a pasture. They appear the same. One horse has a bell on his halter. If you pay attention you will see the larger horse follow the sound of the bell. He is blind.
    They live day to day that way. To feed, to shelter and out of the weather or into the sun. The two horses care for one another. Always there’s a bell.
    The moral of the story is that we need to be kind to one another because God doesn’t abandon us when we aren’t strong. Instead he puts people in our life who will understand that folks need help, love and support. Like the horses
    We must be kind to all because we never know what folks are going through in their lives. Whether walking down the street, out for coffee or at a birthday party. What you see isn’t always the whole story.
    God doesn’t give up on us because we have issues but rather he puts people in our life to help us.
    You have been the sighted horse. Now thanks for your honesty you need the kindness and support that isn’t apparent on the outside. You can be the blind horse. I hope you can hear my bell!
    I’m far away but I can pray hard as I have for you and your family in the past!
    Thank you for your honesty. Its hard. Vulnerability equals Strength and Courage!!
    I’m so grateful for how your blog has enriched my life! My turn!!
    I will be praying for you!! XOXOXO

  5. You are not alone and you will find your way. I’ve had RA since I was 17…now 66. People wasnt to pity me but I don’t. Pain became my normal and I had a great career and although had to compromise things in life, I’m still here going stron. You have that in you but it is not easy. You want to just tuck away and cry, scream, swear and maybe you do but you come out of it and go on. You are strong, resilient, and have a world of support that love you. There is light and darkness but always life. You will do this ths…no doubts!!

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