Reflections on Pain

Pain is great! Pain puts things in perspective. Pain reminds you that nothing is absolute. Every sensation, feeling, perception, experience is relative. Relative to the experiences of others. But more importantly, relative to your own lived experiences (and your still to be experienced moments, but more on that at the end).

This relativity comes with the understanding of how great your life was when you were not in pain. Something that most of us fail to realize during our pain free moments. We take pain-freeness for granted. Until it’s not granted to us anymore. Then we wish we were pain free again, and we will do anything to free ourselves from the pain.

3 weeks ago, on a Friday night, I woke up with an intense pain in my midback. I couldn’t find a sleeping position that would alleviate the agone, so I ended up sleeping curled up on the couch for the rest of the night. t was the only position that somewhat helped. I stretched in the morning, went to the gym and the pain seemed to have worn off. “I think I must have just slept super funny”, naively I thought.

It’s 3 weeks later, my medical record now include an X-ray, a CT scan, an MRI, and a biopsy (that’s when they poke you with a needle and take a piece of you for in-lab testing). The initial diagnosis of a benign tumor growing around my spine turned out to be wrong. The growth is malignant. I have cancer? That’s a declarative sentence posed as a rhetorical question. I suppose I am just trying to convey how absolutely unbelievable and yet totally normal my life still is at this point. Yes, it seems I really do have cancer. We still don’t know what kind exactly, but the baby in my midback is growing at a steady pace.

Since that first Friday night, already 3 weeks ago, my torso and legs became numb. I walk like a penguin. I can’t lay flat on my back. I’m taking mild opioids and corticosteroids to withstand the pain. Life is strange. It makes you busy, stressed, happy, occupied, hopeful, excited… and then smack! It throws you back to the starting line (or the finish line?). Naked, robbed of all the certainties you used to have just a few short weeks back. Robbed of being pain free.

And yet, despite all of this, I also feel strangely at ease as I’m sitting here on the couch, writing these lines after a terrible, painful night of delirium. It’s not because I gave up, I’m ready to put up a fight. It’s because of what I said at the beginning of this reflection, I’m ready to do anything to be pain free again.

So let’s go, this is the beginning. A restart. A restart I didn’t ask for, but restart nonetheless. Press play.

P.S. I promised to speak about the relativity of past, present, and future as it relates to pain, or lack of it. Past and present is clear. Painful present makes you appreciate the pain free past. Problem is that the painful present will not necessarily make you appreciate the pain free future. Once you heal, the novelty of being pain free wears off. You forget about how bad you felt. You will take pain-freeness for granted again. I think you shouldn’t. I think you should wear your scars. Not to show off but as a reminder to yourself. I want a memento dolor (remember the pain in Latin) from this experience, so once it’s over, I appreciate every single pain free joyful moment I will have.