Life has sure been a challenge since late September. A period I have begun to call my paincation. It has been a rough couple of months physically and psychologically
Just at the point that every challenge turned me into a whimpering baby, I saw the pain management specialist and life has been looking up ever since. For one thing, just having the pain affirmed and a plan in place took a ton of weight from my shoulders. There is still pain, but I feel like I have my arms around it now. I’ve gone from taking Oxycodone every four hours to taking it once a day; the days where it’s two or more are dwindling. The Lyrica makes me a little woozy, but that is also decreasing as my body adjusts to it. And the Lidoderm patches help a lot. For years the L5-S1 area on my back would swell when that area was under stress, and in recent months it was bad–like a little loaf of bread sitting on my lower back. Well, that has started to go down too. True relief for the first time after two months of intense, almost maddening, pain.
How sweet it is.
Otherwise I’ve been living the dream. You know that one you have when the alarm jars you awake on Monday morning? That five minute period where all you wish you could do was lay around in your pajamas all day? Well, that pretty much sums up the paincation. I’ve been in my pajamas, inside, and doing nothing physically every day. I read, knit, pet cats, break up cat skirmishes, take my meds on a certain schedule, write, surf the Web, and little else. My saving grace is living in New York , where virtually any desire can be delivered to my home. And I live across the street from Riverside Park, so I look out over the park and the Hudson River and I don’t feel like I am trapped. Which is good because I’ve been in my home for a week. Between my body healing and its acclimation to medication, what energy I had has been severely limited. And I’m always surprised at my limitations.
A week ago I stopped by the office to see my boss, give him a little gift for Christmas, and my doctor’s note. I live a block away from work. I left there, walked three block to pick up some prescriptions and three blocks back to home; when I got home I was spent. The thing I like about Manhattan is that it is very much a walking city, but that short jaunt that was nothing only five months ago took it out of me for a couple of days.
I wasn’t the paragon of physical fitness before I was diagnosed with cancer, but I have always been able to do a lot things. Walk long distances, bike, hike, and do handy work around the apartment. I have a lot of upper body strength because of the work I’ve done over the past 20 years lifting 40 lb boxes. Yesterday I was going to run outside for a moment to put a letter in the mailbox some 25-30 feet away. I walked out the door, got to the end of the portico, and turned around. One of the doormen reached over and took the letter and said that he would mail it for me. (All of my doormen are so wonderful. Once, when I saw a water bug the size of a large pizza in my bathroom sink, I ran downstairs and one of them came to the rescue!)
But now that my endurance is the lowest in my life and as I deal with pain, frustration and relief are inseparably woven together. And for the most part I’ve come to accept it and have stopped beating myself over the head about it. This naturally impatient person is now learning to become patient. (It’s a Christmas miracle!) When it comes to friends I have an embarrassment of riches. I’m learning to ask for help when I need it and I finally realize that my friends don’t see me as a burden, but a friend they want to help. Someday I hope that I can return those good deeds tenfold.
Taking narcotics can be scary. Many do get addicted to prescription drugs during an illness, but not everyone does. And I must keep this perspective. After discussions with my pain management doc I realize that I am under care and doses and frequencies are prescribed, followed, and adjusted over the long term. So I am cautious, but not paranoid about addiction. However, the other night I became aware of one very dangerous aspect of taking Oxycodone.
My back was smarting pretty intensely, so I took an Oxycodone. It was about 9:30. I was surfing the web and it started to kick in. My mouse made its way to the link on my Protopage for Etsy. I spent $50.00 one night and about $60 the next night. My fear was laid bare before me: it was not fear of Oxycodone addiction, but knitting accessory hoarding! Some cute project bags, an interchangeable needle case, a pair of earrings. Oxycodone must engage the shopping gene, for I realized what was happening on the third evening as I browsed some beautiful–and pricey– hand spun on which I had my eye. I turned off the computer and sat on my hands. It took everything I had not to add to my knitting hoard.
Look for me on a future episode.
So while I’d rather be doing a million other things than having a paincation, I’m getting through it. One day at a time. One step at a time. I look at this as a kind of internship. Many good days are ahead, but I’m sure there will be days that are both questionable and hard as well. I’d like to think that my paincation will prepare me to handle other challenges in a measured way and with some amount of patience.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go to my Late Night Oxycodone Induced Yarn Shopping Support Group.