Chronic Pain Stories
Cherry P. is a retired nurse with 38 years of experience, including palliative care. She asks that we care for those who are dying every day from severe chronic pain. Without her pain meds, she cannot live a normal life. Even with them, she is not totally out of pain. She has osteoarthritis of the sacroiliac joint, and pain in her lower back and down both legs. “Without pain meds, I could not live,” she says. “I fear end of life would be an option! God be with all those who don’t wish to push us to that brink of the ideation of suicide. Please take care of us chronic pain patients and help us stay alive!”
Damaris R. knows about addiction. She has family members who would go from one doctor to another, from hospital to hospital, and from dentist to dentist just to get drugs. “Addiction is a horrible disease,” she acknowledges, “but the government is not going to fix ANYTHING with their ban on opioids. The addicts will find other ways to get high. But the real crime is that most of those who truly need the medication have essentially 3 choices: turn to alcohol, street drugs, or commit suicide. What the government is doing is wrong on SO many levels. Is there really anything that the average citizen can do?” She has only used pain medication several times a month for a ruptured disk. But, even using that small amount, she finds that the doctors still have been forced to treat her as if she were an addict. She finds it “simply ludicrous.”
Pain has altered Eric B.’s life. He had to quit working as a public school history and photography teacher after 17 years, because the pain is too severe to work any job. He is in line to meet with the judge to get permanent disability payments. He was told that he may have an 18-month wait. His family income was cut in half since he has been unable to work. “Even getting out of bed or out of a car is agony,” he reports. “I used to lead school trips to India, Vietnam, Turkey, Ecuador, Bosnia–all over the world–as well as take students, and my family, camping and hiking. All of those things are gone now. My ability to do them is gone due to chronic pain.” Opioid treatments have provided the only real relief he has found for the increasing and intolerable pain levels in his lower back. He has become friends with his primary care doctor over the years who has treated him for depression and anxiety, and continues to do so. However, Eric reports, “He has washed his hands of using opioids ( besides this suboxone patch, which doesn’t help much and lasts a few days before drying out). I am stuck.”
A 35-year-old married mother of one, Jamie was in a horrific motor vehicle accident when she was only 23. “I have severe pain every second of every single day,” Jamie says. “Along with the multiple compression fractures, I have herniated disks, bulging disks, bone spurs that abut my spinal canal, narrowing of the spinal canal , spondylitis, kyphosis, and degenerative disk disease.” She suffers from endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. She has been to more than 100 doctors in the last eleven years and all of them have told her that anything above her lumbar spine is inoperable. “Doctors have treated me as a lesser human being,” Jamie says. She has been asked very personal questions and had her character called into question. Doctors automatically assume she is a drug-seeker. “When I finally did get a doctor who helped me with the doses that worked, I got my life back.” She was able to do things I loved. However, the CDC guidelines have stripped all of that away.
Her doctor has had to taper her down. Since then, she has lost mostly all ability to function. She can hardly drive. “My husband has to wash my hair, help me shower, get dressed, sit up in bed, lay down, and even use the restroom,” Jamie explains. “This has been humiliating to me, and I believe has had a negative impact on our marriage. Also, I am in never-ending, excruciating pain. My doctor tells me my dose should never have been lowered at all. I was functional and that medication helped me to be the person I should be! But I can’t be that person anymore. I’m no one anymore. I don’t matter ! My pain does not matter! What’s worse is there are thousands of human beings like me who are in the same boat.”