a really sad day

I’m planning to hire someone to finish a small digging project that I can’t complete due to the pain. I’m hurting so much that I called Mark (my orthopedist) today about the possibility of a partial shoulder replacement on the right side. The one he did on the left 37-months ago has just recently reached what I suspect to be its full potential for improvement, and I would anticipate just as slow a recovery on the right side, but my condition certainly won’t get any better if I don’t have the surgery. A full replacement would be more likely to alleviate more of the pain (I have no thought that I will ever be pain free), but it would also restrict the kinds of work I could do, and I had rather be in pain and able to work than to not be in pain and not be able to work. My problem now is that the pain is so great that work is out of the question, and I am also concerned that I have now worked myself into this level of pain a few times, and I am beginning to worry that I will eventually do so much damage that the increased pain level will become permanent and maybe even unbearable. I’m also concerned that Mark either won’t operate at the hospital my insurance will send me to, or else he will pronounce the joint too far gone for a partial replacement—and maybe even for a full one (joints can deteriorate to the point that the only option is to either do nothing or else to fuse the bones). Then again, I might feel better in a few days, and say no to another such nightmare.

Today is a lovely day, and as I look out the window at a project which I can’t finish, I am practically in hysterics. If it was work I hated, I could live with hiring someone, but how do I live with giving up things I love, one after the other? Depending upon one's perspective, there are many valid ways to interpret life, but certainly one of those ways is to regard it as a slow—or sometimes fast—fall into ruin succeeded by death, and that’s the one that is before me at the moment.

Sidney, the baby that I call my grandchild, was here yesterday. As I reflected upon the growth she has experienced in her first two months, and the growth that she will continue to experience for nearly three decades, I envisioned her as a flower that I will never see completely open, but I also remembered that her growth will someday turn to decay, and she too will increasingly fail until her life finally comes to an end. I then recalled a song that goes, “he not busy being born, is being dying," and since it's from my favorite movie, I put it up top. 

What to do? I ate some pot, but it made things worse. Pot quite often does that. I never know what it will do from day to day or even from morning to afternoon, but when it’s bad, it can take whatever is bothering me, multiply it by a factor of ten, and rub my face in it as if into fresh shit. Getting high on pot should not be taken to imply that the user will necessarily have an enjoyable experience.

The picture is of my Grandpa holding me in 1950. While holding Sidney, I remembered that picture, and I knew that, despite his dour expression, he must have felt with me somewhat as I was feeling with her, for I know he loved me. There is something so hopeful about new life that I can't imagine anyone not loving it, although my cat, Brewsky, certainly gives an excellent imitation.


stephen Hayes said...

I wish I were smart enough to provide you with the right comforting words. I know my aches and pains are increasing as I get older but nothing so fat that's unmanageable. And you're sure right about the pot. I never smoke when I;m depressed because the pot intensifies emotion and can make a situation worse. I hope this painful situation goes away so you can have some relief. I'm sending as much positive energy your way as I can. Take care.

Snowbrush said...

Stephen, there are up and down periods that come with living with significant pain and the limited physical capability that results from it. I never have any thought that anyone can say anything to make me feel better because I've had too many to try over too many years. The only thing anyone can do is to be present, because isolation tends to go with pain. Even when people in pain are among other people, they don't feel as intimate as they did before the pain (at least I don't) because the pain creates an emotional barrier and highlights the limits of human communication.

Unknown said...

I know a thing or two about chronic pain and the thing that stands out is how we all respond differently to pain and the the medications we are on to help alleviate it.
When the pain is at its worst I go within myself and pace or try to stay busy which is not easy considering the debilitating pain.
I have no wisdom for you Snow, no answers, so I am sending you positive thoughts and praying that your insurance comes through for you. I remember your first operation and the pain and fear of it all. Great photo of old Granddad. Take care, Lisa x

Snowbrush said...

Lisa, I've had three shoulder surgeries. Two were rotator cuff repairs, and one was a partial replacement. All were awful, but the last took by far the longest to heal.

As for what I do when things are bad: I give myself time; I remind myself that pain ebbs and flows; I sometimes turn to philosophy, especially the Stoics, and of them especially to Marcus Aurelius; I remind myself that life--and thus the pain and disability--will end, and that I have the potential to experience a lot of good things before it does; and I start looking for new ways to alleviate the pain, or to at least help me deal with it better. I've been down this last road many times, but the worst thing I could do would be to allow myself to drown in hopelessness, so I keep going back, however tentatively.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Oh Snow, I do hope you can get some pain relief! My mother is going to have her hip replaced... I'm hoping it helps. She's stopped cutting her own grass (3/4 acre) at 90 and it's killing her...she loves to be outside working!

Snowbrush said...

"She's stopped cutting her own grass (3/4 acre) at 90 and it's killing her..."

If she were a couch potato, things would be easier, but then again, if she were a couch potato, she would probably be dead by now. I often think about how much easier things would be if I didn't need to work and feel physically strong. I miss much about how I used to be.

kylie said...

i have never been physically strong but i still know the grief that comes as capability decreases. i try to look on it as an opportunity for growth. haha feel free to throw sand in my face for that one.
i have recently had a bit of pain in one shoulder and i get freaking annoyed when i cant easily pull my pants up but an acupuncture treatment usually sees me pulling my pants on and off at will again :)

i love that you have a baby around, they are glorious little beings

take care my friend

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. Hurting for you, hurting with you. Pain, particularly intractable pain, is demoralising, isolating and I find it just plain frightening. And needing to make use of what you have - your brain and your body is an integral part of you. Could you live with yourself as a couch potato?

Caddie said...

"a project which I can’t finish, I am practically in hysterics"

Snow, I know what you mean. Yesterday I had not 'practically hysterics' but the full blown course - over the fact of another non-start with the mower. So exhausted pouring $ into it. A king's ransom needed again! So off to dig a hole for an apple tree. Crushing pain and exhaustion took hold there, so I quit, wishing I had a puff. Lucky you, having decent/good medical help. Mine just says "everybody has pain; deal with it!", "suck it up" and absolutely REFUSES medication for it. Talk about frustration! Of course I never want taking something that's addictive so bed is my only solution. Finally got that tree situated after three tries - Yay for me. Yet I'm so weary climbing this hill of constant pain that gets steeper by the day. Exhausted! You have my ear, but that doesn't help your painful situation, does it? I hope you soon get relief but hopefully no more surgery.

rhymeswithplague said...

To alleviate pain, laughing is always good. Read today's post on my blog. No word yet on whether Eddie smokes marijuana.

P.S. - I don't mean to make light of your situation, but this or prayer is the only way I know how to help, and I knew you wouldn't want prayer.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry for the pain, man. Do be careful about doing further damage. I hope the doctor can offer some solutions and aids.

Marion said...

I'm so sorry you're having so much pain, Snow. I hope it eases up soon...I have to agree that the hardest part of living with chronic pain is the everyday things you have to give up. I'm a gardener with a bad back...truly, an oxymoron. I've put all of my tomatoes this year in pots that my husband filled with soil for me so I could sit in a chair and plant them. It's the fucking pits, I tell you, to NOT be able to dig in the dirt with a shovel. I can't get a new back.

You're in my thoughts and prayers. I just love the photo of you and your grandpa. Love & hugs, my friend. xo

Snowbrush said...

"i try to look on it as an opportunity for growth. haha feel free to throw sand in my face for that one."

Oh, but I agree. There are lessons to be learned even if they're not the lessons one wants. It also behooves a person to make the most of whatever situation he or she is in, and one way to do that is to reorder one's life. It's just that it's not so easy sometimes. Every time I get a little relief, I find it so easy to conclude that I'm back to "normal" again, and then I go back to thinking like I did when I was normal.

"Could you live with yourself as a couch potato?"

Well, there's Qi Gong, and I can bike and walk even though long hikes and mountainous terrain is out.

"Of course I never want taking something that's addictive..."

Maybe your doctor doesn't take you seriously, or maybe your doctor is a callous asshole, but I would definitely get another doctor. Seriously. You don't want to waste time going to a doctor who won't help you, and even implies that you're emotionally weak for asking. There are inexpensive, non-addictive drugs that millions of people take for pain everyday for years and tolerate well. I would suggest that you look into Neurontin, Elavil, and Effexor. You can't take the last two together, so I would recommend you try Effexor first--in the generic, of course. If you're in pain while you're in bed, Ambien also comes in a generic as do many other sleeping pills. As for the addictive drugs--the narcotics--most people who take them for chronic pain never become addicted, but those drugs do come with a lot of side-effects, and truth be known, if you live with chronic pain, it's unlikely that any drug will alleviate it to the point that it's not really a problem anymore.

"To alleviate pain, laughing is always good."

Yes, have you heard of the groups in India who get together every morning to laugh--at nothing.

Thanks, Charles.

Thanks, Marion.

Snowbrush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerry said...

The pain you describe is too much pain. Pot doesn't seem to be the right solution. As for laughing, they say that even fake laughing is helpful, but I'm a little skeptical.

Shoulder surgery is extremely painful as you know, but the best answers to all of your questions probably lie with your surgeon, Mark, since it sounds like he'll give you a straight answer or set of options. I suppose there are always options.

Phoenix said...

Since there isn't anything I can say to make the pain lessen, I'll take your advice and try to just be present with you for a moment. I imagine us sitting on a porch somewhere, where the weather isn't too hot or too cold, just enjoying each other's presence and company, and having a good conversation.

I hope the pain fades away soon. Gentle hugs to you, Snow.


Joe Pereira said...

I wish I knew how to help :(

angela said...

I'm so sorry your in so much pain. Your right it's the realisation that we will never be as we were is so frustrating and sometimes makes me so angry. Our bodies have become the enemie within and it's one of the hardest lessons to learn to just accept it. Hugs to you from one who is walking this path with you. xxx

Chartreuse said...

"Even when people in pain are among other people, they don't feel as intimate as they did before the pain (at least I don't) because the pain creates an emotional barrier and highlights the limits of human communication."
That comment of yours resonated with me - not about pain, but about being an exhausted and emotionally deprived caregiver to an older husband. My status as a caregiver seems to have alienated me from most people in exactly that way. There's no way for me to communicate to anyone what it feels like to have more or less given over your life to caring for someone you love (or did once love, and now feel bound to with ties of steel). This, like pain, cannot be expressed or explained in words. It must be lived to be understood. So being this way tends to alienate you just when you most need support.
"There are lessons to be learned even if they're not the lessons one wants. It also behooves a person to make the most of whatever situation he or she is in, and one way to do that is to reorder one's life."
Yes, thank you for that reaffirmation. I totally agree.
And as you probably experience with Sidney, I experience joy and 'support' just from being near my two-year-old grand-daughter. Loving her is like enfolding life in one's arms again. I give thanks every day that she came along when she did - expressly to get me through these difficult years, or so I like to think.

Snowbrush said...

Thanks, Joe.

Thanks, Angela.

"That comment of yours resonated with me - not about pain, but about being an exhausted and emotionally deprived caregiver to an older husband."

Peggy is by far my main support, partly I can share with her, but also because I am obligated to her. In other words, I can't kill myself because it wouldn't be fair to her. Hopefully, I wouldn't kill myself anyway, but I do wonder sometimes because I hate this feeling that life is a war of attrition in which I do nothing but lose ground. I'm of a gender, a race, and an age group that is very prone to offing themselves, and I do think about it, but without ever coming close to it.

"Loving her is like enfolding life in one's arms again."

Exactly. On this, we are of one mind and one understanding, and you expressed it beautifully. My Grandpa died when I was two months short of turning five, and I still grieve for not having known him through the years. I referred in this post to Sidney as the baby whom I call my grandchild simply because I don't know how I would feel if I were related to her by blood. I don't think I would feel much different, but it's like thinking about suicide in that I would have to walk in another path to know how I would respond to that path. Before Sidney, I never gave babies any thought. I liked them well enough, but I didn't find them especially interesting, or look forward to them being born, or think it would enhance my relationship with their parents, and now I have thought all of these things, and she is even better than my expectations.. I told her parents that having her is like having a new toy, and it is, but it is a terrible understatement to put it that way. Need I say that I am very excited about this kid. I see her for several hours every two weeks, and if for some reason, I didn't get to see her at the allotted time, I would try to see her at some other time because I don't want to miss seeing her grow. I can't imagine how painful it must be for grandparents whose grandkids live far away. Another thing about Sidney that draws me to her is that her real grandparents aren't in her life, so this increases my belief that here is a kid who I really can be close to, and whose parents welcome me being close to her.

Bruno Laliberté said...

Hoping you'll have many "better days" ahead of you. Love that you had your "sepia" moment like I do weekly. Great pic of you and your grandpa.

PhilipH said...

Just so sorry to hear of your severe pain Snowy. Dragging you down like this cuts me to the quick and I just hope you get some relief as soon as possible. I also feel sorry for Peggy. Pain is so often felt by the person closest to you, mentally and, sometimes, physically.
Best wishes to you both.

Snowbrush said...

Thanks, Ticklebear. I have many such photos, thanks to my mother who got out the old box camera kinda of regularly. She never learned to load film, so when she shot a roll, she would have me take the camera to the drug store where they would unload the old film for developing and put new film in.

"Pain is so often felt by the person closest to you..."

Feeling guilty for bringing distress to other people is another downside to pain. Certainly, Peggy would be happier if I weren't in pain, so there's a motivation to hide it from her, but I can't do it. Even if I said nothing, she would know by the way I move my arms and grimace, and the fact that I'm not working. Anyway, I wish I could get the latests news about your daughter. I really miss your blog.

The Blog Fodder said...

Sorry to hear you are in pain again and cannot work for it. Get the shoulder done even if it takes awhile to heal. Like three years. It is better to try.
My life long role model, mentor, friend and professor just had a knee replaced at 88. You are a lot younger than that!

Snowbrush said...

"Get the shoulder done even if it takes awhile to heal. Like three years. It is better to try."

The surgery would cost over 50-grand where I live, and it's a toss-up whether it would help or not. If it were a sure thing--or even near a sure thing--I would go for it without hesitation. As it is, the decision is harder. My latest thought is that if I can even do most things that I need to do, I had rather not have the surgery because if it turns like the one on my left side, I won't be able to sleep on my side even after three years, and I sure do hate to lie flat on my back all night every night.

All Consuming said...

It's a hell of a decision dear, and I feel for you so much, the frustration and pain, bloody awful. But I also think that if necessary, you must turn to other avenues, rethink and replan to find other activities, other paths that will give you, if not the same satisfaction as the working does, then certainly provide a pleasing distraction. Turn and turn again. You can still write, (sehe says pointing out the bloody obvious), there's much you can do in fact, try to stop re-thinking about what is happening and what might, it imprints darkness onto your mind and heart. The hash, well alcohol is a gamble too so I know what you mean, though I recall a bad time on hash being infinitely worse than a downer through the grog. X

Snowbrush said...

I heard from Mark, and he is willing to do the surgery at a hospital that he doesn't like to go to, but is the only one that my insurance will pay for to the maximum extent. I've been in constant pain since the last time I tried to work on my digging project, so I'm thinking seriously about having a third surgery and about how to make it less odious. For example, I plan to rent a hospital bed instead of sleeping in a recliner, and I'll have it done in late summer or early fall rather than in winter. Not having dogs to take care of will also make things easier. I've been researching the surgery, and found that they've revised the kind of activities that I will still be able to do so that they're not so limiting as previously thought. Unfortunately, I'll almost certainty need to have the replacement replaced in as little ten years, and that's assuming that I follow the activity limits.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

You seem to be a candidate to have an ain intervention done right in your brain. Ever look into that? They use some technique now while you are awake with MRI and then probe and shut off the pain connect for area that is the trouble.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Wow you do need to get some relief. Not sure what brought you to such a bad place but you do need some fixing:)
You could be looking into getting the pain centre in the brain shut down too! Seems it is possible for chronic pain issues.