Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cracking up...Literally


Generally speaking, I am pretty healthy. I have had a couple of scares in the last couple of years with suspect calcifications in my breasts, but fortunately, I have managed to slip past a malignant diagnosis. I am so grateful it did not go the other way for me as it does for so many women. 

My immune system seems to be working well as I have rarely had a cold or flu in ages and my organs and body chug along without complaining most of the time. I am blessed. However, there is one area of my health that has given me some grief for the last few months and exposed me to chronic pain for the first time in my life. It seems I have arrived at the expiry date for some of my molars. They have been cracking at a rate of 1 a year for the last 4 years. Everytime this happens, I find myself in the endodontist chair undergoing yet another root canal. The first two worked out OK for the most part and the third one required some tweaking as it began to ache again. That required some pretty nasty surgery, but solved the issue.

The next molar to bite the dust was the last molar at the back of my lower left jaw. It did not look good and the experts reckoned it was not a good candidate for a root canal as the cracking was too severe, so that one was extracted. By then, I was hoping my tooth troubles were behind me, but no such luck. The pain continued and the source was difficult to pinpoint. Two dentists and two endodontists later and 3 months of Advil every 4 hours day and night and finally I got some relief last Monday. That was the fourth root canal. 

So, now that I have financed several vacations for my dental care providers, I am pain free for the first time in months. I feel like a new woman. Looking back on my journey of pain, I am struck by the fact that I have never really understood the battle many people face with chronic pain. It is not conducive to living life normally. My sleep was disrupted. My moods were erratic. My energy was low. I had trouble focusing and concentrating. I felt anxiety and panic if I found myself too far away from an Advil fix. I was on a roller coaster of pain and relief. I did not resort to anything stronger. The Advil did the trick for me, but I can certainly understand how easy it would be to become addicted to stronger pain meds.

So, now for the reason I am sharing all this with you. As you know, I am always searching for the meaning as to why things happen. What is my lesson? I think over the course of my lifetime, I have not been particularly good at empathy.  I would go so far as to say, I sucked at it most of the time. I have been intolerant of whiners and people who seem sickly to me. I was not completely horrible and if someone was genuinely suffering, I would feel badly for them, but there were times when I would secretly be thinking maybe they were just cry babies or pain intolerant or looking for attention and if someone seemed to be constantly ill or in one case addicted to pain meds, I saw them as weak. They needed to suck it up and move forward. I would label some people hypochondriac and lose patience with their constant whining. 

A small punitive voice in my head would try to suggest empathy to me, but I had no desire to listen to that voice. I was healthy and I would be damned if I was going to let these whiners drag me into their web of malaise. I have never liked hospitals or bedside tables lined with bottles of prescription drugs. The very thought would make me shudder. How did I become so jaded? So callous? Clearly, I would make a lousy nurse. 

These few weeks of pain have been a karmic wake-up for me. As I ask myself, how would I have wanted people to react to my ill dental health? Well, mostly, I would have asked for patience and understanding and for the most part that is what I got. I did not talk about it a lot, but there were times when I had to explain my behaviour by telling my tale. Pain takes it's toll on you. 

It has been a reminder that without your health, nothing else really matters. For anyone reading this who is suffering in any way, I wish you well and hope there is some relief coming your way soon. It has also made me think quite a bit about assisted suicide. If I had thought that I would have to spend the rest of my life with chronic pain, you can bet I would have been thinking about that as a way out. No one should have to live that way. 

But they should be able to die as they choose. 

Funny how walking a mile in someone else's shoes changes your perspective.

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