Dealing with Pain, Part I

Dealing with pain is constant trial and error.  Different pain, different body parts, and different biological mechanisms means that I am always experimenting with various remedies.  These are my favorite, in no particular order …

  1. Medical Marijuana.  Before I was in pain, I didn’t understand the big deal about medical marijuana.  I’d never tried anything remotely comparable and I didn’t understand how important it is to people in pain to be able to avoid narcotics.  The first few times I took the medication prescribed to me, the side effects weren’t manageable, especially with young children and the need to be alert and focused.  When I sought out medical marijuana and began experimenting with types and dosage, I was finally able to manage my pain and function.   I’ve done this legally, obtaining a medical marijuana card and getting my products through the dispensary.  Having both CBD and THC at my disposal to be able to manage my pain during the day (CBD) and sleep at night (THC) has literally saved my life.
  2. Physical Activity.  On the days when I feel as though I can’t get out of bed, but I do anyway because I have to take the boys to school or handle whatever is going on, I feel better.  The more I move, the better I feel.  The less I move, the more tight I am.  This has been something I’ve had to get used to.  Pain is not something I ever had to manage before.  I have to also say that I’m a big believer in mind over matter.  I’ve always been able to utilize my mental energy to push past discomfort, but that hasn’t always been possible now that I have cancer.  Yet another example of how cancer has turned my life on its head.
  3. Yoga.  I attend a chair yoga class, which is also sometimes classified as gentle yoga, three times per week.  I really notice now when I don’t go how much more stiff I am.  Gently moving and stretching has so very many physical benefits and the mindfulness/meditation practices are huge for my mental health.  I’ve always honestly been a bit skeptical about yoga and other practices that emphasize mindfulness and meditation, but I’m a believer now!
  4. Massage.  We found a masseuse that comes to our home and he is AMAZING.  As a result of my surgeries and other complications in my thighs, there are some particular muscle groups that are TIGHT.  Some of you may be familiar with the IT band–it attaches to the top of the femur and then to the knee.  I can tell that my IT band in my left leg is tightening up when I climb the stairs and have crazy pain in my knees.  In fact, I have had knee pain ever since I woke up from my leg surgery.  It is possible the pain is referred pain from the screws being so close to my knee, but I do get relief after massage, so I suspect that it is primarily muscular.  My masseuse understands anatomy and his role on my team.
  5. Heat/Ice.  I’ve not found lots of relief with applying a heating pad, but I definitely see progress with icing my hip.  I recently discovered that this is probably due to my bursa in my hip being inflamed.  This is also known as bursitis.  People who don’t have cancer and rods and screws internally holding their bones together get this too.  Fortunately icing does help, some.
  6. Salt Water.  I am thankful to live on an island on Biscayne Bay and to have access to a whirlpool bathtub.  Soaking regularly in the salt water and/or Epson salts definitely helps with that achy feeling at the end of an active day or week.  Just a note, the achiness I had before cancer is nothing compared to the aches and pains I deal with now–a side effect of most of my medication is bone and joint pain; one of them causes my tendons to swell.  All of this means, major discomfort all the time.

This regimen works for me most of the time and encompasses the major recommendations of my pain management doctor; however, when my pain wasn’t controlled with all of these relatively over the counter remedies, we had to think more creatively about what would help.  That is the subject of next week’s post.  Stay tuned!!

DISCLAIMER–I’m not a doctor.  None of my comments should be construed as medical advice or dosaging.  I’m only reporting my personal experiences, which cannot be extrapolated to anyone else’s situation.

Author: Abigail Johnston

I'm a daughter, a wife, a mother, and I've been living with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer since March, 2017. All of the words I publish are my own.

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