Now, that seems to be a pretty quick synopsis of a human condition that afflicts us all at some point throughout our lives. Pain is pretty universal. And there’s different kinds of pain.
When I was a kid, my brother shut the car door on my hand. This is the kind of quick excruciating pain that at first isn’t even believable. I looked at my hand, at my finger crushed between the doors, looked at him, and then started screaming like a baby with nuclear diaper rash.
We were in the parking lot at the beach. My finger was throbbing the rest of the day. Definitely made the beach less fun.
Did my mother freak out and drive me to the ER to see if I was okay? Hahahaha. No. I was the third of three boys. She was much more of a “rub some dirt on it” kind of mom. She had seen lots of skinned knees and stitches and broken arms. A pinched finger wasn’t going to end the day.
I couldn’t even really whine about it. Having two older brothers means you have to suck it up, buttercup. Lake Michigan was pretty cold that day, so I spent a lot of time with my index finger in the water. It did however, make it really hard to catch a football.
I’ve had my share of run-ins with pain. I’ve dislocated my knee multiple times, which eventually required surgery. I’ve dislocated my shoulder multiple times, which also eventually required surgery.
In the “which is the worst pain” contest, shoulder or knee, I gotta go with the knee. But, the shoulder rehab was just a horror show of awfulness.
After having my arm in a sling for 8 weeks, it was pretty much locked down. My physical therapist said he would eventually get full motion back in my shoulder. I told him I was perfectly happy with my hand and forearm not moving much, and I would adapt to the handicap. He laughed at my attempt at nervous humor, and then proceeded to move it a few inches every session. I would scream, swear, and pledge that if I ever got better I would seek revenge on not just him, but also his family.
Physical therapists. God love ya, you people do a helluva job, but seriously, when they train you, are you judged by the volume of the screams? Like, “Nope, sorry David, he’s not screaming loud enough. Also, he hasn’t sweated through his shirt yet. NEXT!” I also feel the CIA should get their counter terrorism folks from PTs.
CIA spook- What makes you think you’re right for this job?
Physical therapist- I’ve been a PT for 12 years
CIA spook- (low whistle) Daaamn. You’re hired. Welcome to the world of counter espionage. Here’s some electrodes and a bucket of water.
(Just kidding. I’m sure the PTs reading this have heard it before. Please don’t hurt me.)
In my cancer experience, sickness has been more of an issue than pain. Chemo and radiation comes with the side effects of nausea and tiredness, and just generally feeling like crap. Nothing tastes right, so foods you normally love taste terrible. Spaghetti and meatballs tastes like cotton balls covered in motor oil. Or something like that. Your results may vary.
But, since my tumors have started flaring up, cancer pain has become very real. Tumors in my groin sometimes make it impossible to sleep, and when I see the clock turn 2 am, I wonder if I’m ever going to sleep again.
Last night, there was no such problem going to sleep. The problem started after I woke up. I was uncomfortable, and had some pain in my tailbone area. The pluvicto treatments are going after the cancer in my bones, so some pain is expected. But the pain this morning that started as moderate and tolerable quickly morphed into something severe and completely intolerable.
I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t lay down. I started pacing around the house. Nothing was comfortable. I walked around with a towel around my neck so I could bite into it and scream.
I started crying. I felt like my 10 year old self with a finger stuck in a car door, except the door wouldn’t open and I couldn’t get to Lake Michigan for relief. Holly felt so bad for me, but there was nothing she could do.
(To all caregivers in this situation. Don’t try to do too much. Holly knows if she starts making suggestions, I’m gonna lash out in a completely unhinged and unfair way. She just stays quiet and sympathetic. This is yet another example of caregivers being angels of God, and when you people get to heaven, God has some amazing ocean front property for your eternal life.)
The pain had me rummaging the medicine cupboard like a starving man looking for a Triscuit. Ok, not a Triscuit, those things are gross.
Anyway, I found Tramadol. Let’s try that!
I found Advil. Let’s try that!
I found extra strength Tylenol. Let’s try that!
I found my steroids from last months pain. Let’s try that!!
If you’re wondering if it’s safe to take all that stuff in a 20 minute period, the answer is probably not. If it killed me, I didn’t care. If someone would’ve handed me a loaded pistol, I would have thought about it. If that sounds over dramatic, well, so be it.
After taking my goulash of pain relievers, I lay down on the couch with my crying towel. Zoey was really worried about me. She brought me every toy in her toy box to comfort me. She licked my tears.
(We don’t deserve dogs. They get a place in heaven with never ending steak sandwiches and lots of bunnies to chase. Bunnies get their own heaven with lettuce and no dogs)
After about an hour, the pain started to subside. I could concentrate on the book I was reading. I could sit more comfortably. I noticed it was really nice out. I hooked up Zoey to her leash, and we took a really nice walk. Fall in Michigan. Ahhhhh. The picture at the beginning of this blog is from our walk. It was amazing how quickly my condition improved. Glad I don’t own a gun.
After the walk, I called Holly to tell her I was feeling better. I’m making sure that I keep taking the Tramadol. If it gets bad, the pain reliever smorgasbord will start again.
But, I gotta admit, this episode has scared me. I’m pretty tough when it comes to all the treatments. I’ve been in ICU twice in the last 2 years. But pain frightens me worse than anything else.
I understand why hospice is necessary. When the pain gets so bad, eventually the only relief is to zonk yourself out. I get it now. When the time comes, I ain’t gonna be a hero. I want to be able to tell my family that I love them, and that I hope I’ve been a good husband and father, and see you on the other side. And then drug me up. Check out time.
And that isn’t easy to admit. We’re wired to fight. I started crying when I ended that last paragraph. (It’s been a day for tears.) I love life. I want to be around for all of it. I have a grandson on the way. I want to watch him walk and run and throw a baseball. I have no idea how much of that I’ll be able to do.
I can’t rub dirt on this pain. I can’t suck it up, buttercup. When the time comes, bring on the drugs. I’m out.
Thanks for reading.