Sunday, 15 April 2018

Pain is soul destroying

11 January 2016: My gallbladder was removed. I had eight gallstones, each the same size (the size of a dice).

My pain started in September 2015. I was a matric teacher and marking trial papers. By November, my condition seemingly had worsened. I had applied earlier in the year to mark matric papers at the end of 2015, but because of the pain I couldn’t go. I was diagnosed early in December with having gallbladder stones. December (the holiday month), I was crippled with pain. Doctors were on leave. The first date when I could see a doctor was on the 8th of January, 2016.

In April of 2016, I returned to the doctor. Something wasn’t right. I still had severe pain. A series of tests followed. The process involved a sonar and CT scan, a colonoscopy screening exam and many blood tests. I even went to my gynaecologist. The final diagnosis was made at the start of 2018: perhaps fibromyalgia. The pain is everywhere. I keep saying: They simply don’t know, do they? They seem to be guessing.

To this day, I still have pain. The intensity can wax and wane throughout the day. Some days are so amazing that I hardly notice the pain. On other days, I can barely breathe. It’s not a quality life. I have always suffered illness at the hands of Stress, but I don’t think the problem I’m experiencing now is related to stress. I can say this because it’s not the first time that I’ve had to deal with physical pain. I have even suffered severe migraines in my life.

I've noticed that I can teach until approximately 11 o’clock in the morning. After that, the discomfort affects my concentration. I can’t sit. I can’t stand. I can only focus on breathing. What truly amazes me is that on any given day, whether the pain is intense or less noticeable, I can still climb the stairs, carrying a pile of paper or just my pencil bag, and still stand in front of a class motivated to teach. I spend many hours on my feet teaching passionately regardless the circumstances. The most important instrument in any classroom is a motivated teacher. When I’m busy with what I enjoy doing, I can get through it. I think that deserves some kind of medal! 

Pain pills: I don’t go there. Most of them don't work anyway; they only dull the pain or knock me out (and what good am I when I'm unconscious?). The thing is, I want to monitor the pain. I feel that I need to be on top of this game. When I experience pain, I become aware of my strength and that's when I learn best how to carry the pain. Everyone can relate with the fact that pain insists upon attention. It is real. Being my reality, I need to know what is causing it. So, there’s really no point in trying to escape it. I can numb it, but that won’t cure it. Instead of running to pills, the best thing for me to do is to find a position in which I can comfortably lie down and try to sleep. Sleep never comes, but the pain eases enough for me to get up and carry on.

By now, my brain is aware that I have to live with this pain. Yesterday was bad. Today is worse. Why? I had to stay behind at school on Friday for detention duty. I only got home at five o’clock. As always, when I am suffering (in silence), the angels come and bless me. On Friday, I was blessed with a group of 40 beautifully well-behaved children and a loving, considerate friend and colleague, Joekie Lessing. What a breeze it was. Detention was nothing to fret about.

I can only hope that tomorrow will be a good day. The new week begins and I have to teach the extremely difficult poem: “To learn how to speak” by Jeremy Cronin.

I want to go and see a general internist as soon as I can. The search for the cause of all this pain must continue.

Few things a doctor does are more important than relieving pain… pain is soul destroying. No patient should have to endure intense pain unnecessarily. The quality of mercy is essential to the practice of medicine; here, of all places, it should not be strained.” Marcia Angell