Inside Out, Outside In

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Pain. Pain of the physical and psychological, and social kinds, became a part of my world as my condition started to define my world more and more. Sometimes, I feel as though I must live with pain, but why? When pizza burns the roof of my mouth, I know the origin of the pain and the subsequent, between the incisors blister. Nothing really mysterious.

Metastatic Cancer makes life mysteriously painful. Allow me to try to describe it without seeming condescending – in general people experience pain via injury from the outside in; MBC causes pain from the inside out. It causes all kinds of discomfort and sometimes the outside in kind meets the inside out kind and that collision of outside and inside makes things exceedingly uncomfortable. However, there’s no reason to feel any anxiety about letting your oncologist know about it. You’ve no need to feel like a hypochondriac when you have a traveling case of cancer. And if anyone tells you you’re imagining things, then imagine life with those who positively support you instead of the negative naysayers. Nothing pisses me off more than a medical practitioner of any kind who doesn’t listen or view the patient as a whole person with lives outside of the hour or less per month they spend inside the office with us.

Palliative care saved my life as I know it today. Palliative care should not carry the connotation of a frightening, stigmatic step before hospice. It’s for our physical and mental well being to keep us from hurting in every way possible. I’m blessed to have my palliative oncologist; I’ll call her Dr. Favorite, since she is my favorite doctor. Dr. Favorite helps me with physical pain through medication and alternative therapy; through talking and knowing me and my situation at home and sending me to therapy to work through my issues and challenges; through navigation of the healthcare system and helping me get the to the right doctors and adjunct therapies; through my fatigue with medication and other therapies such as sleep hygiene and just understanding my body is exhausted and so is my mind. These are a few of the many ways Dr. Favorite helps me. Pain isn’t something we metastatic cancer patients intrinsically must feel because we have cancer. In fact, palliative care means giving us the best life possible while we are able to live the best life possible.

No doubt, I’m a believer in better living through chemistry and have no problem, as I know some of you do, with taking medication to alleviate my intense pain including the allusive bone pain. However, there’s alternative therapy, such as acupuncture and other eastern techniques – one of which I was blessed to receive through Cancer CarePOINT for six weeks called Healing Touch. If you don’t know much about it I encourage you to see your local cancer support group because chances are they have not only heard of it but offer it at no cost to cancer patients in treatment.

Reach out to places where you can find other kinds of support too, because some pain is not the physical kind. In fact it’s pain caused by the daily isolation and by our lives turned 180 degrees from what once was. It’s going to be a long row to hoe for some of us. For some of us. It’s fought on a short path. But I know that no one can really truly understand what it’s like to get up in the morning and hope for a good day only to find no peace, no comfort, no one who understands really what you’re going through, and laying your head down at night with the only comfort of joy that life gave you today was the purr of the cat next to you and it’s godsend of unrequited love for you. To feel needed by something alive.

Here’s a fantastic TED talk on palliative care and Dr. B.J. Miller will blow your socks off with inspiration:

Ilene

Female. East coast transplant living in the Bay Area of California. Living with Stage IV breast cancer. Married to the coolest guy in the universe who occasionally suffers from serious depression. Love my stepsons, although I never thought I'd have that thankless job - ever! And my best friend Simon is also my cat. How I have survived with stage IV: treatments including chemo and surgery; palliative oncology; tenacity; a dark sense of humor; support groups; and my newly reinvented career as a vintage and antiques maven. Some days I miss the old me who led a well respected and well paid life as a business strategist in high tech. So much for that. I blog to simply share my experiences and my poetic approach with others who have cancer of any kind or with their care givers and those who love them. If one person at the very least finds a little commonality or a friend out in the ether tor a smile, a common nod about this experience, or even a link to assistance, then I have accomplished a small but extraordinarily meaningful goal. Go team.

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