Jennifer Doering: Constant pain means constant fight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By Jennifer Doering

Special to the Salisbury Post

Webster’s Dictionary describes “chronic” as “frequently recurring, continuing for long periods of time; affected by a disease for a long time.”

The same dictionary describes “acute” as: “extremely sensitive, sharp and quick.”

We all have suffered acute pain; a sprained ankle, root canal, broken bone. It is terrible pain, but we know it will eventually go away.

I personally suffer from chronic pain as a result of bad genetics, botched surgeries and severe osteoarthritis. Daily I take over-the-counter medications to help with pain, as well as arthritis. These medications keep my pain at mostly, an even level of 5-6 with 10 being as bad as it can get. Having to wear my prosthetic leg daily on a back that has gone through four surgical procedures is what causes the majority of my pain.

My day starts at 11 a.m., and usually I am back in pajamas sans my prosthetic by 7:30 p.m. Not a long day. But any longer a day will cause the constant pain I fight to flare to the point my daily medications do not work. It is then that I have to take an opioid.

However, as I’ve been told over numerous years, if you wait until the pain is really bad, the opioid won’t work; take it before the pain gets bad. So I live in a catch-22 situation. If I take the pain medication before the pain is bad, I will have a long, pleasant and productive day. But then I will probably be accused of being a pain pill addict.

It did not use to be this way; I could take one opioid every other day and have a long, productive day. Now, due to so many people abusing pain killers and the STOP Act, I have been forced to cut my opioid use down to barely anything because I don’t want to be labeled an addict.

I actually feel like a criminal now for living in chronic pain. Besides, my doctor can no longer prescribe my pain medication. Now you know the reason for my very short days.

I have always hated taking pain medications due to the terribly constipating affect. So, would I rather suffer severe pain — or be free of bad pain for awhile, but constipated? I don’t think deciding which choice to make is difficult. I personally don’t know how people can abuse these medications and have properly working digestive systems.

I wish the STOP article (about opioid laws in Sunday’s Post) would have said the following:

People that take opioids to fight chronic pain did not start this crisis, rather it is the people that abuse these medications for pleasure that are causing this epidemic. People that sell their scripts to make a few dollars, people that steal other people’s scripts — they are the cause of this crisis.

During my 30 years of fighting pain, I have tried all of the alternative modalities. Massage feels great, but insurance will not pay for that. At $60 plus tip, that is beyond my reach. Acupuncture has worked, but only to a point. Physical therapy has worked — again, only to a certain point, plus the cost is prohibitive to anyone without insurance.

I paid over $10,000 for a spinal cord stimulator that was beating in my chest by the time I got home rather than in my spine, where it was originally placed. I have undergone round after round of radiofrequency, which for me has worked each time for a couple of years at a cost of over $10,000 per session.

I have tried the modalities, but sometimes you need something to fall back on when they don’t work. For me, it is either take a medication that costs a few cents per dose or give up living any kind of productive life.

I have no problem going to a pain clinic for my pain medication, nor do I have a problem with having to give a urine sample. What I have a problem with is that my own physician can no longer treat my pain, my own physician who knows me, my health, my personality and my truths. My personal physician is the one I trust.

When I finally get into my pain clinic appointment, I’m afraid all they will see is a person who “wants” pain medication. I don’t “want” pain medication; I “need” pain medication. I don’t want that person to look at me like I am an addict looking for a fix. I want that person to know how much I hurt and how hard I have fought pain for probably more years than that person has been on this earth. I want that person to see the real me, the person who gives of herself daily tutoring children, doing my chores, loving my husband and wanting to lead a fun and productive life.

Chronic pain has been my constant fight.

Jennifer J. Doering lives in Salisbury.