Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of my friends and family love, peace, and joy during this glorious Christmas season

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who Is This Entity Called Pain?

As I read many of the blogs about chronic pain there is always a common thread. Pain is a thief, an intruder, something that destroys, challenges people when they are exhausted, and changes their lives forever. I have come to terms with my personal ordeal with pain, vowing to handle anything that it throws at me through the grace of God. And I do, well most days, ok, some days. Until, it strikes back again with such power and force that it leaves me weak, frightened, and ready to give up.

Chronic pain destroyed a 30 year career in healthcare administration, leaving me unemployed, and searching for answers. I began a new career as an author, feeling proud that even with my illness, I could be productive once more. I started writing my second novel, hopeful that it too would be accepted for publication. I began dreaming of the fulfilling new life ahead, one where I could pen a book every couple of months, support my family, and regain everything that I had lost.

Pain doesn’t deserve the capital P, it just takes it. Whenever I start to feel better, even slight improvements, I quickly forget all limitations. You would have thought by now that I had learned my lesson. After what may be the hundredth time, once more I had to learn that I am not in control of anything. I can not sit at my computer for more than 20 minutes, period! If I do, I pay for it later and the price enacted is just too steep. The other day I was very involved in my storyline and wrote for about an hour before my pain level became too high to ignore.

So what do you think I did? I pushed on for another 30 minutes because I wanted it more than anything at that moment. By the time my brain became reasonable again, the damage was done. I have spent the last 5 days in extreme agony and pain. I am angry at myself for being childish, foolish, and plain proud again. God had already dealt with me about my false pride and had humbled me, but then I allowed my ego to gain footing, forcing me past the breaking point. I am too embarrassed to even seek out my physician for relief. I have suffered to my next scheduled appointment, where I know my physician will inject my neck with steroids to reduce the inflammation.

So I pray to God that this time I have learned my lesson. I can write in moderation which means 15 to 20 minutes a day, maybe two times a day if I am feeling well. I can work on my novel and I can visit friends on my computer network, but the key is moderation. I will learn to rejoice in all the gifts that God has given me. I am blessed because I can still do these things!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are You Annoyed With Your Pain Doctor?

When does the communication between the chronic pain patient and their pain physician break down? You may have experienced this too. Your physician is extremely caring and you are involved in the treatment plan, but then suddenly you start to feel that your physician is not listening to you or worse, something else is now in the driver’s seat that is not explained to you.

My first physician became interested in Botox’s cosmetic advantages and started a cosmetic clinic. As a pain patient, I felt discouraged sitting in a waiting room with patients who were full of hope and animation as they talked about all the benefits of their cosmetic treatments while I sat there in pain. I was desperately trying to be full of hope too; hope that the next treatment would work and decrease my pain.

The effects of Botox only lasted for about 3 months. Repeated Botox treatments started a cycle similar to being on roller coaster; ups and downs of pain levels that were too extreme. But my physician insisted that I continue even though the results were unsatisfactory. That’s when I started to wonder what was happening to the left over medication from my Botox treatments. Was it being used for cosmetic patients to pad the pockets of a greedy physician? I never dreamed I would get a straight answer, but I did.

“I use the prescribed amount for your treatment. The left over portion is already reconstituted and can not be saved for your next treatment. Botox is not only expensive, but it is in demand. I do not feel comfortable wasting it, so I have devised a system to use the Botox by scheduling a cosmetic patient after a pain patient. That way everyone benefits.” Really? It was time to find a new physician.

My consult with physician number two was promising. On my third appointment I was introduced to the physician assistant or PA. The patients in this practice were only seen by the physician for changes in treatment regimen, otherwise they were seen by the PA. I hung in there until the PA made his first medication error. As a former healthcare administrator, I understand the business of medicine, but it must be run with quality care and satisfactory outcomes. I was politely told that the physician was too busy to see the patients because he had just started a spa with weight control and cosmetics. Time to change again!

That brings me to my present physician who is caring, experienced, and has always taken the time to listen to my concerns. He treats the patient as a whole person and together we work towards controlling my chronic pain. One of our goals has been to reduce my pain medication when I respond favorably to treatments and I have had some positive success with it until recently. After attempting to reduce my medication again, I found myself having an extremely difficult time and I went back in to see my physician. He said that he wanted me to stay on the lower dosage for 2 more weeks and “tough it out.”

He explained that chronic pain patients develop more pain receptors than normal people so that their pain is experienced at higher levels. Something that would not even bother him would be perceived by a pain patient as significant. He continued to explain that he knew this was true about me because I had “yelped” during my recent transforaminal steroid epidural injection.

I reminded him that I had declined the MAC anesthesia and had done the procedure under a local. When the steroid was introduced, it caused considerable pain down my leg for just a minute and yes, he did have to wait for it to subside. He then said that most of the patients used the MAC anesthesia because this injection can be very uncomfortable.

This left me confused. Was he telling me I a wimp or not? I wanted to reduce my medication dosage and eventually discontinue usage if possible, but I didn’t want to live in bone searing pain and “tough it out” either. My physician looked at my prescription bottle and said, “I see that this lower dosage was filled a week and a half ago, so I do think the best option is to try this for another week. If you just can’t stand the pain, come back in. I will have another prescription available for you.”

He then spent 20 minutes telling me about his trials with patients who are attempting to obtain Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet. He told me about the time consuming new regulations and because the DEA was cracking down on pain physicians, it was more difficult to order narcotics. Unfortunately our county had become noticed in national media for excessive narcotic prescriptions usage with escalating overdose statistics.

According to the American Pain Foundation, legitimate patients are having far greater trouble than before in gaining access to pain medication. Some patients have to visit several pharmacies before locating one that can fill their prescription. Due to the growing number of abuses and regulatory hurdles, many physicians are once again “under-prescribing” or ordering smaller quantities of medication at a higher cost to the patient. Dr. Edward Michna, director of the pain center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says that doctors fear legal problems, citing arrests of physicians in prescribing cases. He believes that more doctors are becoming “phobic” about ordering narcotics.

Obviously, the system is broken again! The DEA and local authorities should be able to distinguish between a legitimate pain management physician, who is board certified in Pain and Rehabilitation, and the physician who sets up a “pain clinic” with cash paying customers who line up around the building to purchase their prescriptions. Many of these docs have patients who have been hospitalized for overdoses and yet they return to the clinic and easily secure more narcotics. And what makes matters worse is once these so called pain docs have been identified, they typically take the shingle down, close the door, and reopen for business in the next county or state. What is it going to take before they actually lose their medical licenses?

I left the office with my prescription bottle in my hand and I sighed. Pain specialists seem to be falling into a few categories. There are the ones who are using cosmetic Botox and weight control medications to tap into the growing population of baby boomers who do not wish to age gracefully. There are the ones who have become the equivalent of a 21st century pusher while practicing under the umbrella of pain management. And that leaves the physicians who are desperately trying to treat the more than 70 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain while complying with all the regulations, and trying to avoid becoming an enabler to a ballooning population of prescription abusers. I am beginning to fear what the future holds for us.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Administration of America’s Healthcare:Eyewitness Account of Insurance Bureaucracy

Insurance companies function as the gate keepers of our healthcare dollars which is a double edged sword. Yes, they should control the overboard spending that occurs when physicians order expensive procedures and tests to insure protection against malpractice litigation. (She screams Tort Reform, but that’s another blog story!) But the hoops that insurance companies insist that their clients (patients) have to jump through is just plain wrong!

Radiofrequency nerve ablation or RA is one of the newer procedures in the arsenal to treat chronic pain. Heat waves are used to destroy nerve fibers that conduct pain pathways, thus reducing the pain felt by the patient. The positive effects can last from 6 months to about a year, depending on the patient, nerve damage, and disease processes. I have had the procedure performed 3 times to date and I can attest that it does work well, although the journey there is tedious, frustrating, and painful.

Insurance companies do not arbitrarily invent rules and regulations for the premium paying masses to conform to. They have a medical director, board of directors, and nurse case managers who make the decisions and then enforce their edicts upon us with a simple statement, “Follow the guidelines, or the claim will not be paid.” And they would have you believe that their creativity for development of these insurance standards has a higher purpose; to insure that our healthcare dollars are spent in the most cost efficient manner while achieving the best medical outcome for the patient.

Really? Not a chance! As any patient can tell you, many of the guidelines make no sense at all. For those of us with chronic pain, radiofrequency ablation (RA) provides some short term relief from the day in and day out constant attack of pain. But to have the procedure, you have to endure facet nerve blocks as a diagnostic test. The test is painful and usually sends the patient to bed for several days. Two weeks later, the RA procedure can be performed and if you require another treatment on the opposite side of the spine or at another level, you must have the diagnostic test again. Get it? Repeat the sequence; more pain, bed, wait 2 weeks, RA treatment.

Then it gets worse. Once the effects of the RA treatment wane, insurance guidelines require a specific period of time before retreatment, regardless of the recommendations of the physician who is treating the patient. So the patient is allowed to regress back into a very painful condition. And once that guideline is achieved, the patient is horrified when they are informed that they must have the facet nerve block diagnostic test again before each treatment. Repeat the sequence; more pain, bed rest, wait 2 weeks, RA treatment. Does this insure that our healthcare dollars are spent in the most cost effective manner? Remind me how the insurance standards are set up to serve as a patient advocacy to achieve the best outcome. Not hardly! Waste of money, time, and more important, the well being of the patient!

As you talk to others who are trying to maneuver the healthcare maze, the stories will astound you. Here are a few examples:
  • Pharmacology tiers which determine the medications you must take before receiving the prescribed medication.
  • Certain medications are too expensive and are prohibited. (Yes, you can have them, but you pay the premium and you pay for the medication too. This one has happened to some of my friends with MS and cancer.)
  • Length of inpatient stays are all determined by insurance guidelines regardless of your physician recommendations or the current condition of the inpatient.
  • Patients who receive substandard treatment because their primary provider will not provide a referral to a specialist.
  • Patients whose insurance maximum is exceeded due to a catastrophic illness and they are now left virtually uninsured.

You must learn to be your own patient advocate. Read your insurance guidelines. Know what your policy covers and what you are paying for in your premium. Learn to read an EOB, the explanation of benefits that is produced by your insurance company, when each claim is paid or denied. If you don’t understand, contact the human resources department of your employer, but don’t rely on your questions being answered by the HR director of your company. They are not insurance coverage specialists! Ask them to set up a meeting with the representative or agent from the insurance carrier. Many times this person can be your liaison between you and the insurance company and they can get problems resolved quicker than you can on your own. They can assist you in the appeal process and many times they know of a special compensation that can be made on behalf of a patient.

Along with your employer, your physician also has leverage with your insurance carrier to ensure a good outcome for you, the patient. They hire coding and appeal specialists who really do work as your advocate since you are both after the same thing; quality care and treatment for the patient and claim payment.

But even as I write this, healthcare as we now know it is in flux and the transformation of healthcare is leaning towards more regulations, increasing costs, and more demands upon medical staff to care for more patients. So, buyers beware or, in this case, patients beware!    

Thursday, November 11, 2010

MRI's and X-Rays Tell a Story of their Own!


4 level involvement seen on MRI

This cervical x-ray and MRI was taken when I started to experience numbness along with chronic pain. I was only 28 years old when the evidence of spinal degenerative disease was already advancing. After careful consultation with several physicians, a decision was made to go ahead with my first cervical fusion. As the day of surgery approached, I decided that I would rather live with pain than go ahead with such a drastic surgical procedure and I cancelled the surgery. I continued with physical therapy to strengthen the muscles necessary to support the cervical column and everything seemed to be improving. In 1993 my condition took a serious turn. The numbness progressed down my left arm to the point where I started to lose function and the muscles began to atrophy, so against all my fears I went ahead with the surgery.

Titanium Plate with 6 screws post

I was placed in a denison brace for 3 months. You can only imagine how uncomfortable this torture device is! And my pain only increased after the surgery, followed by vertigo and disorientation! After suffering damage to the glossopharyngeal nerve, I had to learn how to swallow again. Everything ricocheted out of my mouth and the only good thing that came from this was that I lost some needed weight.

4 months in a denison brace


After suffering with increased pain for another couple of years, my surgeon determined that the fusion did not heal properly. To correct the fibrous union, I had a C3-C6 posterior fusion with bone grafting. That should have decreased my pain, but it increased again! But at least this time, I had a philadelphia collar instead of a denison!


Anterior C3-C6 Fusion with bone grafting and plating

10 to 15 years after a fusion, the level below the fusion begins to deteriorate. Why is this something that is never discussed at the time of surgery? You can't continue to operate and there is no such thing as a total spine replacement for those who suffer with spinal degenerative disease, so you find yourself regulated to a lifetime of chronic pain.

And just to make life more challenging, spinal degenerative disease does not confine itself to one portion of the spine. Before long, the thoracic and lumbar spine are involved which accounts for two more surgeries, loss of gainful employment, and disability. 

But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Just after the darkness of the night, comes the light of the morning. A new day, another chance, a day of restoration. As all those who suffer with chronic pain know, there is a point where you have to make a choice; to give up or to go on. And with God, all things are possible. Life is worth living. And yes, we can live with our chronic pain, holding onto the hope that tomorrow may bring a day without pain!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When Disability Becomes an Identity Thief

When your career comes to a sudden and abrupt end, the loss can be staggering. Suddenly I found myself unable to work, unable to contribute to the support of my family, and lost without my occupation. My co-workers were my friends, but they kept in touch with me for only a short time after my disability began. Our conversations went something like this:

Friend: “How are you doing?”
Me: “I am doing ok, but only by the grace of God. It’s hard.”
Friend: “Really? I wish I could stop working and do all the things I never have time to do.”
Me: “Well, it’s not really like that. First of all, if you’re ill or injured, you can’t do all the things that you want to do. It’s frustrating.”
Friend: “I’m sure it can be, but it must be like a vacation. You can travel whenever you want and if you’re not feeling well one day, you can just stay home. You can’t do that and work.”
Me: “It’s not a vacation. You don’t have an income. And if you’re too ill to work, why do you think you are well enough to travel?”
Friend: “Oh I didn’t mean it that way, I was just dreaming. You are so lucky. Take up a hobby or just kick back and relax.”
Me: “I don’t feel lucky. I miss work and I feel angry that this is happening to me. You know I’m not sure who I am without my job.”
Friend: “Gee, it was nice talking to you and I wish I had more time, but I have to work. We’ll keep in touch.”

And then they don’t call anymore and they act too busy when you call them. Everything that you know changes in the blink of an eye.

I was plagued by one question. Who am I? I had been a healthcare administrator for years and it had become part of my persona. As a professional working woman, I was comfortable making decisions, having authority, and I had excelled at my work, but who was I now? Disability had become my identity thief.

I had a very active lifestyle and suddenly I was being told to relax. With my increasing physical limitations, constant pain, and the loss of the ability to drive, I was home bound. I couldn’t use my arms for more than twenty minutes at a time without having severe pain. Simple tasks had become difficult. Cooking a meal, using a computer to answer e-mails, or playing piano became overwhelming. I couldn’t find a hobby that didn’t increase my chronic pain.

And you start to wonder, “How in the world am I supposed to enjoy living when I can’t do anything without pain? What in the world am I supposed to do besides give up? The loss of physical abilities along with the respect, achievements, and accomplishments from my career, left me feeling like I had nothing left. I began to feel that I was worthless, alone, and robbed of my former self.
I had always been a self reliant, independent woman, but now I was dependent on my husband. Irrational fear of being left alone and fear of the unknown future started to consume my thoughts. I slipped deeper into a depressive, angry state, where I either cried, or was sharp and abrasive. I clung to my husband’s side as if I was about to lose him at any moment. But whenever he tried to help me, I pushed him away. Why was God allowing this to happen to me? I was being stripped of every shred of my identity and without my career, I didn’t really know who I was anymore!

And then I started thinking about a man who once had it all and was at the peak of his career. He rose to the highest level, was admired by many, and everything in his career was perfect. Everyone he touched was made perfect. At thirty three years of age, his life drastically changed and he began to experience rejection, suffering, and torment like no one has ever known. He was abandoned by those who were his friends. He felt incredible pain as nails were driven into his hands and feet. But he knew who he was, he knew that his life was so much more than his career, and he knew that God had a glorious plan for him. Jesus was the Lamb of God who saved man from sin.

That’s when I finally stopped asking questions. I began to pray for God to fulfill His plan for my life; whatever that may be. Once I began reading the Bible, earnestly praying, and praising God, peace settled over me and I was comforted in knowing that God has a wonderful plan for me too. I am not my career. That was only a job. Chronic pain does not define who I am. Each new day is no longer a challenge, it is a new chance to see where God will take me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Addiction to Pain Medication; Can that happen to me?

For those who suffer from intolerable chronic pain, medication becomes vital in the quest to control pain. And every true chronic pain sufferer knows the difference between medication that is used to obtain relief and abuse.

But the trap is easy to fall into. Chronic pain and depression go hand in hand. When you find yourself unable to perform simple tasks and enjoy the pleasures of life, depression creeps in, oozing its way past your ability to make rational decisions. As a pain patient, you will come to the crossroads where you start to ask the difficult questions.

Having a good relationship with your pain management specialist is vital to getting the answers to your questions. If you don’t have a doctor that you can talk to and who is willing to take the time to answer your questions, provide reassurance and guidance, leave and find another physician!

I am very fortunate and blessed to have found an excellent physician after navigating the chronic pain physician maze. His expertise, supervision, and care are essential in my personal rehabilitation and quest for recovery to the highest functional level. When I asked my physician these questions, he supplied me with honest and candid advice.

  1. Will I become addicted to prescription medications if I take this pain medication over a long period of time?

 The answer is No! You will not develop an addiction if you take your medication as prescribed. You will have a dependence on the medication, but that is not an addiction. Dependence is when you require the medication to achieve pain relief. Addiction is when you constantly strive to increase your dosage to obtain euphoria from the drug itself. Unfortunately, when you take pain medication as prescribed, you will develop a tolerance that will require slowly increasing the dosage to obtain relief, but that is not abuse or addiction.

  1. My pain is less today. Do I have to continue my medication even though I am not in pain?

That depends on the medication itself. Long acting medications do require that you take them as prescribed to achieve pain coverage while short acting preparations can be reduced as pain is reduced.

  1. Should I take the medication just in case I have a recurrence of pain?

I struggle with this one the most! It is the “what if” mentality. What if my pain gets out of control or what if I get worse, etc, etc. The “what if” mentality leads to worry and fear. And chronic pain sufferers know that stress, worry, and fear lead directly to increased pain. Even with this knowledge, I find great difficulty coping with the “what if’s”. So, take your medication as prescribed and stop trying to second guess. Don’t take extra medication to satisfy the “what if” mentality.

  1. I feel worse. Should I increase my medication?

Simple one. The answer is no! If you are still in pain or are having break through pain, talk to your physician. He will guide you, make the decision for you, and prescribe the appropriate medication.

  1. I am feeling better. Should I decrease my medication?

Simple answer again. The answer is no! Talk to your physician. Don’t start decreasing your pain medication without the knowledge and consent of your physician. You might suddenly trigger an acute pain attack or withdrawal symptoms that you are unprepared to handle on your own. And of course, I would love to tell you that I have never done this on my own, but that would be a lie. After working in healthcare nursing and administration for over 30 years, I have a tendency to try diagnosing and treating on my own and it almost always ends with a crisis. You would think that after 28 years of chronic pain that I would know better! Like many of you, I sometimes just hate to swallow another pill, but I strongly recommend that you talk to your physician before changing dosages on your own!

  1. Is it alright to drink just a little bit of alcohol with my pain medication?

Yes and no. An occasional sip or small glass of wine or alcohol doesn’t seem to hurt as long as you know your medication and know that the effects are increased from alcohol, but there is a word of extreme caution here. Pain can grossly affect your judgment!

I never and I mean never touch alcohol any more, not even wine or beer. As I said, I have endured many years of chronic pain and I have many experiences, good and very bad. During a particularly lousy time in my life, when my marriage was failing and divorce loomed on the horizon, I had slipped into depression without anyone noticing. Then I started to drink socially.

At first, it was fun and it lifted my sour moods considerably and then I realized that drinking with pain medication worked, and it was downhill from there. The improved pain control and relief felt like a blessing. For the first time in a very long time, I was not coping with a degree of pain. We all know the pain scale, 0 to 10 with 10 being the worst ever. At that time, my daily life consisted of a steady 5, but when I drank, my number went down to a 2 or 3.

So what do you think happened? Yes you guessed it. I started drinking more to see if I could improve and I rationalized that it was acceptable to drink a sufficient amount of alcohol to reduce my number to a 1 or 0. And I did. And I liked it very much! But before long, I started drinking more, and taking more pain medication. I didn’t want to live with or experience chronic pain anymore and I thought that I had found the perfect solution!

This is how alcohol and drug abuse begins, slowly at first, it gathers steam, and then you lose control. The road back is hard for everyone. Many addictions begin from a legit case of pain, but when a chronic pain patient falls down this bunny hole, recovery is extremely difficult. A smoker doesn’t need cigarettes to breathe and live, just like an alcoholic doesn’t need booze to survive, although the transition to be smoke and alcohol free requires a herculean effort. A food addict still needs food for survival. You can’t completely stop eating. And just like that, a chronic pain patient requires pain medication to subsist. Without it, life becomes just a horrible existence without any enjoyment.

So it is exceedingly important for the pain patient to follow the recommendations of their physician to avoid the trappings of narcotic abuse. And even though fear abounds each day from a new article in the papers, online, and on the air waves regarding prescription drug abuse with increasing statistics on deaths from overdoses, the pain patient must navigate through this quagmire.

       He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Isaiah 40:29

Even the strongest people get tired, but God’s power and strength never diminish. He is never too tired or too busy to help and listen. His strength is our source of strength. When we feel all of life crushing us and we cannot go another step, remember that you can call upon God to renew your strength. Hold your head up high, proudly step over the stigma and hushed accusation that you too are an abuser. With God’s help, you will survive, and once again enjoy your life!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Faith and Healing. Do you dare to question God?

There comes a point in the life of those who suffer from chronic pain or illnesses where you begin to question God. Why do I have to endure this constant trial while others around me can enjoy good health? You wonder if God is punishing you for past iniquity or has God just abandoned you? Does God heal those whose faith remains strong through the tribulations of life and then turn a quiet ear to those whose faith falters under the habitual struggle that preys upon the mind and body of those with chronic pain. And you know in your heart that our Lord is a loving God who doesn’t want you to languish and your place is not to question, but even though you try not to, you just can’t help asking the ultimate question; “Why me?”

Speaking with a voice of one who has suffered for over 25 years, I can tell you that my faith has vacillated from strong and lifted up to dangling precariously over the precipice. As I cry out to our Lord for healing and restoration and then nothing improves, I find myself doubting the strength of my faith. Would God heal me, once and for all, if I only had the amount of faith that could move a pebble? And when I find myself weary of my own questions and exhausted from the fusion of rejection, worry, and self-doubt, I come to the Father on my knees and ask forgiveness. He is there, with open arms awaiting my return and I find myself comforted in His embrace, His love, and His benevolence. It’s called grace.

God hears our cries and He answers prayers. Our prayer has to be in alignment with His will for our lives and if it is, He will grant our deepest desires and wishes. His plan for our lives is higher than we can see. But there are times when we are reading the Bible, desperately trying to understand just what His perfect will is for our lives, when we have an epiphany that stops us in utter amazement and we know just what God is trying to tell us.

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  
2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, October 29, 2010

Depression and Chronic Pain; Can you ever really conquer it?

Hello Fellow Pain Patients,

Just like my character in the book, "Heal me, Mend me, Use me, Send me," I too suffer from recurring bouts of depression.  You would think that after what is now 27 years of living with chronic pain that I could avoid the deep, dark drop into depression, but it still hits. And it hits when I least expect it!

The negative questions start to rise up like a volcano.
  •  Will I ever get better than this?
  • Does God even listen to my same old prayer anymore?
  • Why did God leave me this way?
  • What did I do wrong to cause my life of chronic pain?
  • What if God does not heal me?
  • How do I live forever like this?
  • Why would my husband want to stay with a woman who is damaged?
  • This is not fair to me or to my husband and he is better off without me!
  • God, if you are going to leave me this way, why won’t you take me home?

These thoughts are a trap that leads straight to depression, more physical pain, and then ever increasing emotional pain followed by a loss of self-esteem. I start to push my husband away from me as the irrational, cynical, and mocking voice inside my head repeats all these questions as if they are affirmations of my real life. And just when I push him to the brink, I realize that he loves me enough to stay with me through the battles of living with chronic pain and I come home to that sweet place where I am loved. I am amazed by the depth of my husband’s love and I am so blessed that this bond is stronger than me.

And through my tears I cry out to God for forgiveness of my doubting that He loves me and He cares for me. God does have a higher plan for my life even though I can’t see beyond the pain. And He forgives me for not trusting Him to carry me through this ordeal and the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, covers me and I am made whole again.

My mind, body, and spirit are exhausted. I find rest in the Lord and the strength to go on through another day knowing that my chronic pain is on the cusp of improvement. I can wait. I can be patient. I know that God will answer my prayers.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recovering my health; continuing the challenge!

Hello all,
Now that it is a week post-procedure from the radiofrequency ablation lesioning, I am starting to see the improvement. Overall, the pain in my shoulders has been reduced although I am still experiencing acute pain in my left shoulder blade. The RA procedure on my left side was done 3 weeks ago. I was told years ago that the nerve that was compromised by a large osteophyte at the C5 level was permanently damaged, so that may be the continual problem.

 Have you ever heard of a surgeon leaving a spur inside a fusion? The surgeon explained his theory that the fusion would reduce the motion and irritation on the nerve so that it would heal, but the spur was narrowing the foraminal opening too much for healing to ever occur! This was a case where the "ego" of the orthopedic spinal surgeon overtook reasoning, the Hippocratic oath, and regard for the welfare and outcome of the patient. Remember the term, "Physician, Do No Harm!"

Please seek out multiple opinions before consenting to surgery. Many orthopedic surgeons specialize in spinal surgery and classify themselves as "spinal surgeons", but patient beware! If you have a complicated case, it will require the expertise of a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal surgery. This was my greatest mistake. Thank God that I found an excellent neurosurgeon who was able to remove the spur by doing a foraminotomy. Even though I improved from that surgery, I was left with permanent damage at this level.

I had my first treatment with radiofrequency ablation lesioning over a year ago which included C2, C3, C4, and C5 levels. Unfortunately, not even this procedure seems to stop this problem. The chronic widespread pain in my shoulders and neck does seem to be improving with the exception of my left scapula. It is like envisioning a knife that is stuck in my shoulder blade. So I guess I am not ready to reduce my levels of Embeda (morphine sulfate) again. I have a feeling that I am heading for my third radiofrequency ablation procedure that will be performed within a two month period of time.

When you have spinal degenerative disease in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar portions of the spine, it becomes a challenge to control pain. It seems that the pain has a will of its own and it moves just like that game where you stomp the little mole when it comes up. It always pops up somewhere else!

  • Mind: positive thoughts!
    •  I will overcome this pain and as I read my first sentence again, I agree that it is improving!
  • Body: exercise and following physician directives!
    • Although exercising through pain is difficult, I will keep going. I am starting to enjoy the Sit and Be Fit shows regardless of the benefits.
    • There are benefits to exercise.
    • Walking is getting easier and I can walk through the shoulder pain.
    • Ice is my best friend!
  • Spirit: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
    • There is a purpose to my life.
    • I have written a novel about my illness that will proclaim God's glory
    • I am loved!
Have a Blessed Day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Radiofrequency Ablation Cervical Thoracic Spine: 2 steps forward and 1 step back!

Hello fellow chronic pain followers,

Ok, I know there are no followers, but I can be hopeful! After all, I have to be hopeful about something! It has now been 5 days since my radiofrequency ablation procedure and just when I was feeling better and getting around more, it hit again! The return of horrible, horrendous pain! My pain is caused by spasms that start in my neck and move upward to produce a hideous headache that can not be stopped by medication. The only thing that seems to help is packing my neck and head in ice packs and firm pressure with my fingers on the base of my skull. This lessons the pain but as soon as I "defrost", the pain returns.

Does anyone else have experiences like these? Is anyone there?

My husband says that I am always in a bad mood, always complaining and God knows, I am trying to climb out of that deep dark tunnel of pain. But he is right, I am always down, always sad that my life has been destroyed by pain and whenever things start to improve, I get shoved back down. Chronic pain has destroyed every relationship I have ever tried to have and the worst part of it is that I am the one who has allowed my pain to have control over me and my relationships.

Is another marriage going to evaporate? He gets angry when I keep things from him, but then tells me that I am negative when I tell him the truth on how I really feel and what is happening to me. How do I fix this?

Is life supposed to be this hard all the time? It has been over 25 years of this chronic pain! And when I say that I can't take it anymore, I know that I can. I can because God is there with me, He is for me, and I am never alone! Thank you Lord Jesus because without you, I would have given up!

Help me Lord to just make it through another day and please help me carry the physical and emotional pain of living with a chronic condition that has no end in sight!

I can do all things through Christ which
strengtheneth me.  Phillipians 4:13

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chronic pain no longer controls my life!

Hello world,

Well, I missed one day of blogging and I guess it was a good thing! It should have been the best day of the week, Sunday, a day of rest and a day to be in the Father's house but it was not. It turned out to become a terrible day!

So today I will pray more for Jesus to break those chains that control my life!  My 2 year escalation of my chronic pain has left me desperately out of shape and I gained 40 pounds too! This had done nothing but lower my self esteem from someone who is suffering from feeling like less of a person because I have lost the ability to work to someone who is no longer attractive and no longer healthy in any way.

Oh people say, just go on a diet and exercise and you will lose the weight that you have gained. Sure, the diet part is actually pretty easy, it's the exercise that remains a challenge! I have exercised faithfully for many years; aerobics, running, walking, biking, swimming, tennis, weights, and numerous gym memberships. But now the ability to really exercise to control my weight and furthermore, effectively reduce, has been lost!

So I will pray and be thankful that I can do my "Sit and Be Fit" senior show (EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT A SENIOR AND IT HURTS!). I will continue to take my gentle walks in my neighborhood, take my medications, and cuddle with my best friend, my "ice pack" several times a day! I will pray to be set "free" from this chronic pain and to be set free from the devastating low self esteem it brings!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Healing begins 3 days post radiofrequency ablation lesioning

Hello fellow pain patients,
I feel better today! My pain level has dropped some. I am hoping to continue my progress so that I could eventually start to decrease my pain medications.  The procedure appears to be a success even though I am still struggling with painful muscle spasms. If I could ever get past the pain in my shoulder blade (scapula) that feels like a knife, my quality of life would improve.

CHRIST is Living Water!

Friday, October 22, 2010

I am Blessed!!

Hello fellow pain patients,

I feel blessed today because I am feeling better! I am still very sore from the radiofrequency ablation procedure but gentle movement of my shoulders, arms, and hands makes it feel somewhat better today. With God all things are possible and He is faithful and true! His promises are something that we can be sure of!

Isaiah wrote about the savior in the old testament before Christ was born as a man. It is promised that "By His Stripes, we are healed!

Today I am thankful to the Lord that I didn't have any complications at all. Today I am thankful that I have another chance to praise His name.  Just like the book I wrote, He will Heal me. He has already mended my spirit and He will Use me and Send me when my book is published. I will start telling you more about that process as it goes along. The book goes into the publication process in Dec, 2010.

Pray for me and I will pray for you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Post Radiofrequency ablation lesioning

Hello all,

I had my RA procedure yesterday on C6-T1, three levels.  I am very blessed to have a wonderful physician. The procedure went well and I am experiencing post procedure soreness today although there is very little bruising. So,  I am taking it easy.
  • Mind- positive thoughts that this will work to reduce or eliminate muscle spasms
  • Body- I completed gentle range of motion exercises and a slow walk to the end of the block.
  • Spirit- thank you Lord for keeping me safe in your arms!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today is the Day! Procedure Day! Radiofrequency ablation lesioning

Hello Fellow Patients,

I am a little nervous today! I don't like more pain than I already live with!  The procedure is no so bad once you get past the needles to numb everything, it is not that painful, but afterwards it is painful for me. I seem to have good and very bad days with spasms after any procedures on my neck. I wish there was a way to reduce the spasms.

Muscle relaxers work but unfortunately, I can't take them without too many side effects that out way the positive effect. 

Anyone out there having a procedure today?

  •  Things will go well today!
  • I did gentle exercise today along with a nice slow walk which felt good!
  • God calms all my fears; He is always with me and has the best plans for me!
Pray for me. I would love to hear from you so that I may pray for you too!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cervical-thoracic radiofrequency ablation lesioning

Hello brothers and sisters,

Well, it's the same old, same old thing! I started to increase my activities by walking and doing the sit and be fit show and I started to improve and feel just a little better. But as it always happens, the increase of activity starts spasms in my upper back and neck followed by pain at the base of my skull and before long, the "Headache" begins!

Two steps forward~~~three steps back!! 

What is really discouraging is that the pain is on the left side, the side that had Cervical-thoracic radiofrequency ablation lesioning  2 weeks ago! I am scheduled to have it again tomorrow on the right side and although I am not looking forward to the actual procedure, I was hoping to achieve some lasting improvement. But with the reoccurance of increasing spasms and pain, I am discouraged!

Ok, enough of that!  It is time to follow the Lord!

Positive thinking!! This will get better and the procedure will eventually improve!  I had graduated to 2 hours of activity followed by rest and ice applied to my neck and back (every 2 hrs). So, I go back to 45 minutes of activity followed by 15 minutes of ice (every hour on the hour). Hey, it's worth it to decrease the spasms!

Body:  I will try a gentle walk today only if I can break the spasms and headache. I will not push beyond my ability!

Spirit: This picture says it all for me today!
So today I wait upon the Lord for His special touch and healing.

Please let me hear from you. I am sure that you need as much encouragement as I do!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Radiofrequency Ablation

Hello out there! I am having radiofrequency ablation for my neck/back (C6, C7, T1). Has anyone else out there had this done?  How long did it take you to recover from the procedure? Did it work for you? 

I had my first one about 2 weeks ago and it was unpleasant but not extremely painful. I am blessed with a very good rehabiliation and pain management physician, Dr Daniel Bender.

Well, today I was able to walk again and do the show again. If you are disabled and trying to regain some movement or strength, this is an excellent exercise show to attempt. The exercise in a chair is extremely helpful and for me, who really benefits from just increasing the range of motion, this has been a good place to start.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Follow the Lord!

Hello Fellow Pain Patients!
Unfortunately, it has been another very difficult day. I felt angry today. Angry that I am in pain. Angry that I am disabled and angry that I feel so bad about myself. I miss my job terribly. I miss be a productive person and I miss doing whatever I want to do. 

So what am I going to do?  Get going on the mind, body and spirit!
Mind- no more stinking thinking today! I am scheduled to have another radiofrequency ablation on Wed and I am NOT looking forward to it even though I have a great physician, Dr. Daniel Bender.
Body- I took a slow paced walk today and it did feel good. I am feeling bad about myself because I have gained too much weight over the last 2 years of this disability. So at least I can try and lose 40 lbs to feel better
Spirit- I prayed that God would give me courage and strength to overcome. God never said He would keep us from these trials, but He would never ever leave us alone.

Tomorrow will be a better day with God's help!

Let me hear from you. How are you coping?  Who is your physician?  What have you tried?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Conquering Chronic Pain through The Lord

Hello Fellow Pain Patients.

I woke up in pain. My left shoulder and arm hurt this morning. I had radiofrequency ablation done on my left side at the C6, C7, and T1 levels on October 6, 2010. The pain has reduced some on my left side but is ever so present every minute of the day. By 8:00am I was reaching for my medication and I took 400 mg of Gabapentin (Neurontin) and 30mg of Embeda (morphine sulfate). I decided to go for a walk even though I was in pain. I have to start somewhere on this journey back although I really didn't want to go. I walked for 12 minutes. It is a start. 

I then started a DVR of a show called Sit and Be Fit. My husband walked into the room while I was attempting to exercise and I turned the TV off abrupty.  Why? I was embarrassed! I was trying to exercise while sitting in a chair to a show that features seniors. I'm not that old and I didn't want my husband to think of me as an old woman.  Oh, this is the "Stinking Thinking" that I have to work on. So what! Just because I can't exercise like a normal person or the way that I used to before my disability took control of my life is no reason to quit or become embarrassed.

So what did I do next? I went into another room of my home and cried. I cried because of what I couldn't do instead of focusing on the positives. I can walk today! I can sit and exercise a little today! I am alive today! Ok, no more of the stinky thoughts today! Tomorrow will be a better day! I pray that my pain will decrease some more tomorrow. I pray that I will not have to increase my medications since one of my goals is to live a life free of pain medication. I pray for strength to make it through a day without crumbling into tears. I am so blessed by God. I thank God for my blessings and the things that I can still do and I thank Him for my healing. I know it will come!

In the book of Matthew in the New King James Bible, Jesus tells us,
"And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

But just because we ask God for something and believe He is going to give it to us, dosen't mean that God is going to automatically give it to us. It has to be inline with God's perfect will for our lives.  God is faithful and He has good plans for my life.

I made it through the today. God granted me peace today and I am thankful for that. I will rest easy tonight even though I have pain. I will not have to endure it tonight. It just exists for now.