Fighting Chronic Pain as a Teenager

Fighting Chronic Pain as a Teenager

Chronic pain is almost always life altering, but it can be an especially difficult adjustment when it impacts someone whose life is just beginning. Ali Goldsmith was 14 when she started to feel the effects of chronic pain. After surgery to remove bunions, her pain worsened when her doctor struggled to take out the pins that had stabilized her feet during the healing process. In the following months, her legs and feet became increasingly sensitive, so much so that a slight gust of wind could set off spasms of pain.

Eventually she went to the doctor and received the grim news that the trauma spurred by her surgery and difficult recovery had triggered complex regional pain syndrome, an almost incurable and difficult to treat form of chronic pain. Ali and her family tried various forms of traditional and alternative therapies to relieve Ali’s pain but most left her in more pain than before the procedure.

Even as hope for curing the pain began to fade, Ali and her parents did not give up searching for ways to relieve it. I met Ali in 2003, and she started receiving ketamine infusions, along with several other procedures, which dulled her pain and made it easier to enjoy life as a teenager. Her parents were incredibly supportive of her, and they gave Ali the strength she needed to keep going. They managed to keep the mood light despite Ali’s pain.

One of their biggest wishes was for Ali to be able to live like a normal teenager. Once very active and popular in school, Ali’s medication made her lag behind in her education and occasionally alienated her from her peers. Despite her struggles, when the annual dance came around, she was eager to be a part of this important high school tradition, even if it meant her pain might be aggravated.

Soon after she arrived at the dance, another student stepped on her foot, causing excruciating pain which prompted her to doubt her decision to attend. She ran home and cried until her father talked her into returning to the dance. The decision to return sparked something in Ali. From that moment on, she decided to take control of her condition and live as best as she could, acting in plays, traveling to Madagascar as a volunteer, and even skiing with her family. This caused her pain, but she was determined to move forward.

In the midst of it all, Ali has learned something about herself. She says, “My pain is a part of who I am; it’s not who I am.” Although pain may have impacted her identity, it hasn’t become her identity. Some days shine. Others are dimmer. But none are so dark as they were. While Ali isn’t cured, she’s discovered a life worth living largely because the enormously loving family and true friends who have been there for her.


My book, “The Painful Truth,” was released in September 2015.




  1. Brittani on October 25, 2015 at 1:56 am

    My CRPS was triggered by a fracture resulting from a fall in 2001– I was 11 years old. Thank you for telling your story, because it needs to be heard. Chronic pain is so misunderstood, especially by kids, and growing up with it isn’t easy by any stretch. Your story is important. Maybe it’s time to tell mine…

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