For many of us, chronic pain is exactly that – chronic. Meaning it’s here to stay, it’s settled in - it’s not going away. What changes when you can’t be cured?
I recently heard William Breitbart, Chief of Psychiatric Services at the world-famous Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, speak about “Pain and End of Life.” He spoke about changes that occur when someone is given a terminal cancer diagnosis. He presented 10 items people wanted when “cure” wasn’t an option.
- symptom control
- focus on the quality of life which still remained
- a dignified death
- reflect on the meaning of their life
- strive for inner peace
- reconciliation with others
- forgiveness of others and asking for forgiveness for themselves
- don’t die alone
- die at home
- understand what their legacy will be
I began to see these as relevant to chronic pain, too. Here’s how I would revise them for chronic pain.
- symptom control, as much as possible
- quality of life, even with pain
- dignified life and dignified treatment
- take advantage of the challenge of chronic pain to reflect on the meaning of life
- strive for inner acceptance
- request and accept help from others
- forgiveness of your own body for not healing; forgiveness of your medical team for not curing you; forgiveness of others’ imperfect understanding of your pain
- don’t suffer alone
- access to the least invasive treatment possible, but availability of more intensive treatment (for example, a day hospital rehab program) if needed
- understand the meaning of your illness to you
Readers, what do you think of these as goal for living with chronic pain? As I always emphasize on this blog, working towards these goals would be a process, knowing and accepting you won’t be “perfect.” What are your thoughts?
Thanks to Louise-Paisley at Flickr for the photo.