I was not thinking much about pain when I was getting ready to report to duty at Fifty-Five Fruit Street. Mine has been a life devoid of physical pain. Never have a headache, never broke a bone, never had dental pain, don’t suffer from a chronic inflammatory ailment and well, beyond some soreness from over exertion and some weeks of pain related to surgeries 10 years ago, it’s been a pain free ride, for which I am eternally grateful. I’m sure there must have been pain during our three glorious home births, but those short labors were also interspersed with moments of deep repose, grace, other-worldly love, and of course the miraculous life of an amazing child placed in my cradling arms, which has a way of erasing most any pain and also the memory of it!
But in the course of this treatment here there are diagnostic and treatment interventions that hurt: bone marrow biopsies, spinal taps with chemo infusions, insertions of this PICC line, difficult hours in the bathroom, shots to the belly. By now I think I have had all the painful experiences I will see during this and upcoming rounds in residence at Fifty-Five Fruit Street.
This is helpful, preparing mentally, and learning to lean into the pharmaceutical supports to mitigate pain. As a dyed-in-the-wool naturopathic medical doctor, I hate taking more drugs. But I am also a realist and know there is a time and place for everything, and when applied judiciously and infrequently, this is the very least of my issues. I rock into my meditation and prayer practices, and I also let myself cry a whole lot which is a terrific release for someone like me. Sometimes I feel like a big snuffling baby, but then I hit a good sigh, and I feel some better.
When I live through a new path of pain, it’s like a whole other area of my insides are blown out, places I did not know existed. In low moments, I fear this new hollowness will stay open and be there for further pain to find. Elements of PTSD kick in and I have to work at thought-stopping and thought replacement. Eventually and with divine support, I arrive at a deepening of self-compassion, a growing appreciation that while it may hurt now, it will hurt less in a while, that I am resilient, that I bounce back to some level of feeling pretty much myself. This is miracle of pristine health even while you have a diagnosis like leukemia. This is the welcome reward from the decades of good living, an anti-inflammatory diet, the exercise passion, the clear mind and open heart.
I have treated patients with pain for decades. I have friends and family members who live with chronic pain. I know a lot about our ubiquitous never-ending opioid crises, which I have written about elsewhere. I know that as a culture and people in it, we have a hard time getting comfortable being uncomfortable. My own experience in this department can’t help but make me more compassionate. And if you or those you love have chronic pain, know there is help for you. Here’s one short piece to consider.
And on happiest news, I am heading home today! So ends the first round in this ballgame series. I am visualizing walking up my stone front steps, the fig trees with fruit, the hyacinth vine in all its glory, the light pouring in my big kitchen windows, the feel of my king-sized bed and snuggling with you know who. I can’t wait to see some of you. I am ready to leave this behemoth of hope, where I will return in a week or so, into the enormous hug of my home, my yard, and my happy place of true healing.
Love and light from Fifty Five Fruit Street
PS My amazing grown kids, leaning in every day in every way. Here I am doing laps on the hall with my sons.
#leukemia #home #survivor #thriver #opioidepidemic #naturopathic #healing