What I Did On My Autumn Paincation

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.

peg bundyOtherwise 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.


“Hi, I’m Scorchy.  I have breast cancer and I’m a drug-induced yarn hoarder.”

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.

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21 Responses to What I Did On My Autumn Paincation

  1. Sending you hugs ~ lots of them ~ heartfelt and gentle ones.

  2. Scorchy,
    You’re speaking to my very heart right now. I am on Morphine for pain and I am so paranoid that I am going to end up on it for life, stuck to the couch without a plan to get off of it. It’s been a year now of opiates… I can remember last Christmas when I started with Hydrocodone. Reading through this entry is a helpful reminder that one day this could be a memory and it won’t be terribly scary and painful to get off of them… the docs won’t leave me “high and dry.”

    And yes, for some reason these painkillers activate the “shopping is ok” center of my brain as well! What’s up with that??? You are too funny. I am so glad I found your blog.

    • Scorchy says:

      Dammit. I am sorry that you are going through this too. Who wanted to join the painkiller club? Cripes. I don’t mentally crave these things and I have to trust that my doc will be with me on this and will help me. I didn’t have one Oxycodone at all yesterday so I have to cautiously think that I’m turning a corner in the pain department (though this Lyrica keeps me slightly loopy)–and the neighborhood better be a good one. We’ll get through it together! And, yeah the shopping thing. Do you know that one night while the shopping center was triggered I even visited a singles site? BWAH! Man shopping!

  3. MBS says:

    Scorchy, I don’t quite know how to put it. You’ve taken this experience (leaving work, pain) that had you raging not long ago and made a tolerable situation of it. It’s inspiring to read about your personal evolution. I’ve been on a chemo-cation for months now. Some days it feels so luxurious having the approximate daily schedule of a housecat. Other days I get frustrated and lonely from lack of adult responsibility and energy to take up any serious projects. But life goes on, just not the way I expected.

    • I am so happy I read this comment too! It’s like reading my own inner dialogue. “Other days I get frustrated and lonely from lack of adult responsibility and energy to take up any serious projects.” EXACTLY THE SAME WAY I FEEL. Dead. On. Thank you.

    • Scorchy says:

      It’s so hard, isn’t it? I don’t know how long it will be tolerable–you come and go in these things. But just getting it out there and connecting with one another is magic. That we share this and can move through together makes us so much stronger. We can’t do it without one another.

    • CinVT says:

      ACK! As a fellow chemo-cation patient, I couldn’t agree more. The “schedule of a house cat” makes me crazy, and when I try to explain it I get eye rolls as people tall me to just “relax and get better”. So thanks for normalizing that a bit!

  4. It’s cool when you make up new words to describe your scenario. Paincation — thats an odd term. I like it. Well, not the pain part, just the…ah, nevermind.
    Less than three,

  5. So true! So well explained! I’m sorry you are in this place, but thank you so much for describing the place I am in, too. Right now I’m mentally confirming that, nope, I don’t have to leave the house at ALL tomorrow!

    It’s sharing like this that makes some readers (ME) make sure I don’t miss a single future post. Thank you for the words to the world about how this mess can feel.

  6. Susan Zager says:

    Scorchy you are amazing. Only you could take a paincation, accept the fatigue , yet still make us laugh with you over the tons of yarn and doorbugman to the rescue. And even with your being tired, your writing has so much energy behind it. Your blog always makes me smile and I love the way you see things. Happy holidays to you! thank you, hugs and XoXoXo – Susan

  7. Caroline says:

    Pain sucks. Lidoderm patches are awesome. Ask your pain doctor about butrans patches. I wear them for seven days and it provides controlled release. I couldn’t live without them these days.

    Knitting keeps me sane.

  8. jlg says:

    I’m coming to NYC for a knit in (in 2013) and we’ll discuss our yarn addiction.
    great post!

  9. Good morning, it was good to see your blog pop up in my inbox. I knew that it would be an interesting and thoughtful read. Yet again you surprise me – and I love that. I have a mental image now of you with piles of colourful yarn and your cats all wearing newly knitted coats. Thank you. If you don’t manage to write again, I would like to wish you a happy Christmas from across the pond, because we don’t do Thanksgiving we really push the boat out for Christmas. Wishing you all the very best. x

    • Scorchy says:

      Christmas greetings to you, too, Ellen! Always good to exchange greetings with the land of Dickens (and the Motherland). Thanks so much for your kind words. You know, maybe I can knit a laptop keyboard cover . . .

  10. dglassme says:

    Scorchy, you are a “rock star”! Once again creating a well-balanced blog with the bleak details that would cause most readers not to return twisted amongst oh so cleverly placed pizza bugs and yarn balls that make it well worth the readers time to stop by and take it all in.

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