Saturday 27 May 2017

On Pain

Celtic Ballad 

I know that there are people in this world that suffer pain on a daily basis. Extreme pain, chronic pain, unrelenting pain. How much of it is alleviated by analgesic medication, I'm really not sure. But after this past week, I have a better picture into their world. 
It started maybe 3 weeks ago when I did a little yard work. Not much - just removing the old stalks from my delphiniums and piling them up. I'm quite out of shape, and have had back pain issues on and off for a good part of my life. And yes, I have about 40 pounds to lose, most of which is on my abdomen, which is very detrimental to back health. So, after doing my little bit of yard work, my back was stiff and achy. Nothing too serious, certainly something I could live with. Not sure exactly what contributed to its worsening. I was working on the quilt top (Celtic Ballad) in the picture that opens this post. It involves some pretty intense appliqué. Those smaller blocks are only 4" square, and the actual appliqués are probably less than 1/2" across. So I spent quite a bit of time hunched over my sewing machine, looking closely to make sure that the stitches landed where they needed to be. For 24 of those blocks. And then there were the branches I loaded up and hauled to the dump. I had trimmed them last fall, but didn't get a chance to remove them before the snow flew. And so my back got worse. I wasn't in agony, as I told my chiropractor when I visited him on the Thursday before Victoria Day weekend, but I figured I should get something done about it. 
I had plans for the holiday weekend. No camping trip or vacation, but there's always lots to do around home - cleaning, yardwork - just generally getting things caught up. And, of course, some quilting. I had planned on entering a quilt in each category of the 2017 Pantone Quilt Challenge. I needed to finish the Shamrock Pillow for the small quilt category. The Celtic Ballad quilt top was finished and I had booked time on the longarm at Central Sewing Machines after work on the upcoming Tuesday, so I could finish this quilt to enter in the regular quilt category. But I needed to get the batting and backing ready. I had originally planned on making a Celtic Twist quilt for the top only category, but hadn't even started it yet, and since I had already started the swoon quilt for my sister Judy, and it was in various shades of green, I decided to see if I could finish that one instead. 
Then pain intervened. Instead of getting better, my back pain worsened. And it came mostly in spasms - twisting, wrenching spasms that sometimes caused me to cry out in pain. 
I know what it's like to hobble in pain.
I know what it's like to have a spasm of pain so severe that I felt like my leg might collapse while walking.
I know what it's like to try to figure out the best method to wipe myself after toileting to cause the least pain.
I know what it's like to be afraid to get off the toilet because the act of getting up hurt too much. (Sorry if these last two are TMI). 
I know what it's like to not be able to get down on the floor to play with my grandson.
I know what it's like to be afraid to move because movement brings on the spasms. 
I know what it's like to have a sneeze trigger a back spasm.
I know what it's like to sit on the floor and be afraid I might have to sleep there because I couldn't figure out how to get up again without experiencing the pain. (I was watching a youtube movie on my TV. The volume was really low on the movie, even though I had the TV volume maximized, so I had foolishly decided to sit on the floor to be closer to the TV). 
I know what it's like to drop something on the floor and have to leave it there because it would be too painful to pick it up. 
I know what it's like to try to maximize efficiency to minimize movement. When I crouched down to fill the dry cat food bowl, I picked up the canned cat food bowl while I was down there, so that I could fill it.
I know what it's like not to shower or dress because those activities require too much movement, and movement causes pain. Try putting on socks when you have back pain.
And I know what it's like to have a physical disability (even though temporary) prevent me from doing the things I'd planned. I couldn't clean or do yard work. I paid my daughter to mow my lawn. I couldn't clean out the cold storage room or defrost the freezer. I couldn't vacuum out the truck. 
Not only did the pain collapse my plans for the weekend, but I missed a whole week of work. And, of course, there was no way I could get Celtic Ballad quilted. While I did have some times of no or less pain, that would have required nearly 3 hours of driving round-trip to get there, plus a couple of hours of mostly standing to get the quilting done. And while I could stand for short periods, I am certain that the long drive and too much standing would not have benefited my back - if I could even manage to get into the truck, not to mention shower and dress first. Plus I couldn't count on not having a spasm of pain that would result in really strange quilting patterns. 😕 So, yes, I'm disappointed that I will not have an entry for the regular quilt category in the Pantone quilt challenge. 
Celtic Ballad quilt top, with batting, backing, pantograph and thread all ready to go the longarm studio

Ironically, I have still been able to sew. I use a bar stool for sewing, which may seem weird, but you can read more about that here. It's high, so it's easy to get out of without precipitating too much back pain. And it's firm - very little cushion on it - which also makes it easier to get out of, unlike the sofa and chairs in my living room. It actually is the best chair in my house for someone of my height suffering back pain. I rather wish I had one on the main floor as well. One of the recommendations on Web MD for back pain is to change positions every 30 minutes. Simple when you're sewing - you stand up to cut, you sit down to sew, you stand up to iron, without having to move around too much. And occasionally, you go lie down for awhile. And sometimes try to catch up on the sleep you'd lost because it was so painful every time you rolled over at night. 
So, I was actually able to finish the Shamrock pillow and the Swoon quilt top, and enter them in the quilt challenge. And yesterday, I was able to shower and dress and drive to the store for some much needed groceries. And Tylenol Arthritis. Though so far I can't say it helps. Neither did the Ibuprofen I've been trying on and off all week. 
In Home Care, we do an extensive assessment (known as the MDS or the RAI-HC) on our clients on admission, annually and for placement. There's a section on pain, and I couldn't help thinking of it and what my answers would be. 

  • Do you experience pain?
    • No pain
    • Less than daily
    • Daily
    • Multiple times daily (this would be my answer)
  • Rate your pain
    • Mild
    • Moderate
    • Severe
    • Times when pain is excruciating (not sure if I would rate my pain as excruciating, but the spasms were definitely severe). 
  • Does your pain interupt your daily activities?
    • Yes (definitely)
    • No
  • Does your medication control your pain?
    • Yes or no pain
    • Pain present, medication not taken
    • No, the medication does not adequately control my pain (You could only pick one answer, but I would honestly, "No the medication doesn't even touch my pain. I might as well be taking candy because then at least I'd have a sweet taste in my mouth. So for the most part, I just stopped taking it.")
And I'm still afraid of the pain. I'm afraid that when I get up from the chair I'm sitting on right now at my computer desk, I will experience one of those severe spasms. And even if not too severe, the pain has worn me down emotionally to the point where I can't tolerate much of it. I don't want to hurt at all any more. A little bit of achiness, like I'm feeling now just sitting here, may be tolerable, but I want the pain to go away and never return. I want to be able to get up out of this chair and not hurt. 
And eventually, in all likelihood, I will be relatively pain-free again. However, such is not the case for many. There are a lot of individuals who face a future of unremitting pain, which, but for analgesics, would be unbearable, for the duration of their lives. 
My favourite Bible text is probably Romans 8:28. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." I'm not sure how lives of unremitting pain can work together for good for those who suffer. I'm not even sure how my experience of pain is going to work for my good. Will it make me more compassionate? Will it motivate me to lose the weight I need to lose? There are many answers we won't know until we get to heaven. But I do know that we have a God who has not and will not forsake us. He is there with us even in the midst of our pain. The end of Romans 8 gives us this assurance, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." verses 38 & 39. Furthermore, He has promised us a future in heaven where, "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4.

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