The Journey series
No End to Pain
Last week I recounted the ebb and flow of the pain that ruled my contracting career. This week I recount my years of completely debilitating pain. Seeing the size and angry colour of my leg, people would know I was in pain yet, unless one experiences such pain, it is impossible to understand fully.
My leg was so swollen that fluids seeped through the skin, forming beads on the surface. Bits of skin would just pop off. The open wound would invite infection, sometimes requiring hospitalization. During one of my early hospital stays I had visions of Jesus in which He promised I’d be healed ‘when the time was right.’ I trusted His word and after that my constant prayer was, “You know, Jesus; I don’t understand your plan for me. You know, Jesus, I don’t really like your plan for me. But, Jesus, I accept your plan for me.”
The top doctors in the field tried what they could to no avail. They concluded this severe pain would remain with me the rest of my life. At each weekly appointment my pain doctor's first question was, “Have you had any thoughts of suicide this past week?” With today’s euthanasia laws, I imagine I might now hear, “Can I help you end this unnecessary suffering?”
For a long while I resisted opioids because of the horrendous stories of addiction I’d heard but, eventually, worn down from fighting my pain, I conceded to my doctor’s recommendation. I wound up taking more than 170 pills daily just to keep my pain in check. Six times a day, I would take a fistful of pills. Occasionally I’d get a spasm that felt like a rope was threaded from the bottom of my heel through to the base of my skull and then a giant grabbed both ends and gave it a good tug. All benefit of my medications would instantly evaporate and I’d be in torment until successive doses of medication at the prescribed times gradually brought my pain back under control.
I latched on to whatever joy I could. The sun is still shining; I’m okay. The flowers are still blooming; I’m okay. The birds are still singing; I’m okay. I knew my family still loved me but, knowing the burden I was to them, I found no comfort there. Many of my friends abandoned me. I was in such a stupefied state with all my medication that I couldn’t hold a proper conversation with the few who still visited.
At times of deep despair I would remind myself that this pain is what brought Jesus in the special way it did. I also imagined my leg didn’t hurt as much as being nailed to the cross. My third consolation was remembering my friend who died from pancreatic cancer. Knowing his low pain tolerance, my prayer for him was, “Dear Lord, please spare Glenn but, if You must take him now, please let me bear his pain.” This might well be the pain I had asked for; rejecting it would void my prayers for Glenn.
Next week: Promise kept.
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Peter T Elliott