Let me just say, I’m a very empathetic person, no question. I understand and respond to grief and sorrow exhibited, do what I can to alleviate it in others and tend to myself when those are crosses in my own life.

I didn’t know how far off the mark I could be in that estimation. Post cancer surgery I had minimal pain, took no pain med though it was ordered for me, and while I have always had a high pain threshold, I always took it for granted. Consequently my gauge for pain is way off, so I have found. This past week was a great leveler. I am in sustained pain.

I hurt my back simply by faulty stepping. Who knew placing a foot and torqueing my hips could injure major muscles? Who knew standing for an extended period of time could so aggravate those muscles that I can’t relieve them no matter what I do? Who knew there could be enough to make me cry? A toothache is bad, right up there with labor, but this is beyond belief.

And of course, you already know, I have some still useful, not-out-of-date pain meds. Which I have not taken. I have a dangerous phobia about medication. So there it sits on my bathroom counter, taunting me. It’s the fall-out from just enough knowledge to lead me to believe I could get in big time trouble. I’m allergic to all aspirin compounds, which, of course concerns me about meds I’m unsure of. I mean, I know full well attorneys write up those warnings on pablum and by the time they are read through, people like me swallow the pill, lie down and wait to die.

My husband is a man. He is rarely in pain, but remembers he used to have stress at a high level which gave him migraines and such back pain he couldn’t walk. He never hesitated to take something for relief.  Ditto my daughter, who carries a pharmacy around with her just in case. Through her doctor, who sat her down and said, look, try Tylenol, she discovered the relief from the fog of meds guaranteed to threaten her ability to navigate, and is lucid again. Pain, for her, was a simple hang nail. She’d lost all ability to measure her pain realistically. To discover her pain was minimal and manageable. One of these days she’ll put the pharmacy in a box in a drawer where she can find what she needs only when she actually needs it.

I had surgery forty years ago, in a far away town with a fabulous doctor who asked me what I took for pain. Nada. He looked at me like I didn’t understand. Repeated the question. Nada. No, he said, when you have a headache or you really hurt yourself, like a twisted ankle after you fall skating, what do you take for pain? NADA. He put his pen down, sat back in his chair, contemplated me and explained why sometimes treating pain is the smart thing to do, like reducing inflammation, which assists in healing.

I hear you snickering. You do know that not for a moment did I hesitate to mainline chemotherapy, sat in the chemo chair, stuck out my arm and accepted the drip of poison without batting an eye. For hours and days and weeks. So. How irrational am I to anticipate anaphylaxis from a pill?

Tell me something I don’t know before you tell me to allow myself some relief. Because after a week in screaming pain, babying my back and praying the spasms will go away, I get that  perhaps there is a chance with a simple analgesic I can end my own nightmare.

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