The Antonym for Pain

Quotes about love. Google it. Many astute current and historical figures have quotes basically translated to – a life without love is not a life at all. I think Shakespeare said it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Actually I’m uncertain it Shakespeare but I’m not going to Google it. The one thing I can live without in life, in sickness, is pain. Pain, so it is said, presents itself so that you can appreciate the good times, the happiness…so you can appreciate. Appreciation of not having pain? Appreciation of what exactly?

I definitely appreciate those times in my life where I didn’t feel any pain at all in the morning. Smiling and eager, a hopped out of bed when as a young girl; I couldn’t wait to see the gifts of constant surprises of that day lifting me up and urging me to bounce up in the morning. My mother didn’t always see my urgency that way, then again I do not recall the last time I could say my world was carefree. These days, on the cusp of 52 years old I can’t wait to go back to bed so that I can lay down my cancer thrashed bones, and rest. l rest, read, and write. Much better than doing nothing at all – just like pain and appreciation. It’s better than appreciating nothing at all. I learned a new word this morning: compathy. Coined by a statistician at the turn of the century to describe the feelings of caring or grief that occurs in a crowd of people about a sad event. Seems so apropos.

With metastatic cancer to the bones comes a pain that I cannot find a way to describe to bring you, dear reader, to feel compathy for my sadness and my loss.  The physical pain invests itself into a marriage with your consciousness as well.   There’s nothing like it that I’ve felt that’s so physically omnipotent. Imagine having hot tongs that black smiths pick up horse shoes from burning coals hacking away at your insides. After a while those areas were cancer left its mark behind or new areas where its moved to grow, the pain becomes even hotter. Fierce.  In the two years since I found out about my diagnosis, I’ve shrunk about a quarter of an inch. I’m a 6 foot tall woman so for me not being 6 feet takes away part of my identity. I was very tall as a child. I was 6 feet tall by the time it was in 10th grade at 15 years old. So from the time I was 15 until now I’ve been 6 feet tall. It’s like when you lose your hair from chemo you lose part of your identity. We’re not ourselves anymore. When a woman goes through the violence of a mastectomy and one or both of her breasts are gone something of her identity is gone. Something that identified you as female is gone.

But with bone mets no one can see what’s going on you don’t really notice that I’m a quarter of an inch shorter unless I tell you and even then it’s not very much. But think about shrinking a quarter of an inch at 51 years old. I now understand the women I see hunched over on the street hanging like bent trees on walkers. They come outside each day, if there’s no malignant weather, from the old age home next door to our townhouse. They frown in skin of painful evidence though they’re walking just a few blocks just to get some fresh air. Pushing scaffolding around their bodies thrashed over by one awful thing or another like arthritis or osteoporosis. They’re in pain most of the time I would imagine. But to be 52 and understand what the pain must feel like to be in your 80s physically seems rather untimely and unfair.

I remember my mother’s mother, my Grammy Sylvia, in her late 70s and 80s. She stood just 5 feet tall. She was very well endowed with large breasts, whereas I towered over her since I could remember. 6 feet tall and just a bit of a B cup, clearly different from my grandmother’s body type. She didn’t die from cancer. She died from sadness. In a condo in Florida she lost my poppa Bernie and lived on for 10 years after he died. But it was something she never got over. I felt compathy with her and visited with her nearly every week sometimes two or three times. For her, alone and grieving, even small aches and pains probably seemed 10 times worse than they really were.

I have my husband and the good news is he’s coming out of his depression. There are days it shows its ugly face and then it lifts, and I’m incredibly happy to see my husband again. Yet on those days the depression takes him away I learnt to really appreciate the times I have him all to myself. If you unfortunately understand the downside of this horrible disease then you know how I feel when he’s depressed. How I dread not having him around me. Not having anyone to make me laugh. Not having anyone to hold my hand to tell me a joke and to tell me “I love you.” He’s my family and the only real family I have left. If not for him I’m not sure where I would be, what I would do today or tomorrow, or where I would live, or how I would feel. It’s a vastly different life than I have now. I’ve concluded the following: I don’t think The opposite of pain is health, maybe the opposite of pain is appreciation.

You can appreciate things a whole lot more when it’s painfully difficult to get out of bed in the morning. And you can appreciate love a whole lot more when you don’t know how much longer you have to love that person. Because you know what you’re going to leave behind is in pretty. Isn’t happy. It’s not going to be good for anyone who is involved. What I hope is that I will to those who knew me an appreciation for life. And perhaps an appreciation for who I was. And perhaps even an appreciation for who they are. I hope one day my lovely man loves himself as much as I do and know that he is of the most gifted and wonderful souls the universe given to us… to me. And to the people who left my side and scattered like ants away from me when my diagnosis came down like Maxwell’s silver hammer: without Craig I would not have anyone to appreciate life with and then, like my grandmother, the pain would really become even more terribly sharp in a single instant.

I appreciate love.  Perhaps, for me,  pain’s opposite isn’t appreciation, pain’s antonym (and it’s antidote) is love.

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