When Pain Means More
When living with chronic pain, sometimes we end up missing the important signs our bodies are trying to give us. Pain is one of the ways our bodies try to tell us that something is wrong. When you consistently feel horrible, it is hard to know when it is simply normal pain or when there is a new issue that needs to be tended to.
Unfortunately, I have been dealing with chronic pain since the age of 14. At that time my migraine was episodic but I was dealing with severe and uncontrolled endometriosis. No doctor wanted to diagnosis somebody so young with endometriosis, so I was constantly told that I was just being a baby over regular period pain. So for two weeks I dealt with extreme pain, thinking this is just the endometriosis and I have to push on, until I almost collapsed in the middle of an AP exam. My sister was called to check me out of school and we met my mother at the Emergency Room. I had a cyst the size of a grapefruit in my right ovary which closed off a ureter tube and cause an infection. Since I ignored the pain, the infection got into my blood. By the time we were able to go home, it was only with a stent in my arm for IV antibiotics my mom had to do several time a day. This was the first time that having chronic pain led me to ignore pain that was supposed to be a warning sign.
Last year I had about two weeks where I felt slightly more achy than usual. Since I have fibromyalgia, it is extremely hard to determine when you are having a ‘fibro flare’ or when you are coming down with a cold. The weekend of Halloween I had an extreme migraine and stayed in bed all weekend. In the middle of the night Sunday, my husband woke up and checked on me. He didn’t know why but I was breathing funny and in way too much pain, so he went against our normal “don’t waste time on the emergency room” moto and took me to an urgent care his boss had used. Next thing I know it is fifteen days later and I am waking up in the hospital on a ventilator. I had managed to get an extremely bad case of pneumonia and did not know it. When my husband took me to the urgent care my lungs were so full of fluid, the doctor told him my lungs would not have lasted a few more hours.
Yes, strike three
I chipped a tooth two weeks ago but did not have any pain inside my mouth so I didn’t pay it much mind. Then it broke significantly last week so I called around to find a dentist that could see me sooner rather than later. Granted all week my head was way worse than usual and my migraine abortive medication was not touching the pain at all. I was able to see a dentist on Friday. Not only does the tooth need to be removed but there is an infection and an abscess as well. Apparently my extra bad headache was from the dental issues and not just my chronic migraine pain. So then I received the lecture several times about how dangerous dental infections are because they can get into your blood and be fatal.
Sigh… guess I am a slow learner
Obviously I am still here today but I do have to say for several of the people who love me it has been entirely too many close calls with my health. This is a huge part of the struggle with chronic pain conditions, it is so hard to know when it is your “regular pain” and when it is a “different pain.” We get judged so much by other people for being in so much pain normally that we become hesitant to run to the doctor at the first sign of something possibly being wrong. It is definitely not a good thing because it can easily put our lives at risk. This makes it ever more important to have a support system, it doesn’t matter if they are in person or virtual (from an online support group) but it is very helpful to have somebody to symptom check with you. A person you can bounce thoughts or concerns off of when you are unsure about it yourself. When in doubt, remember the chances I ended up taking and go to the doctor. It is better safe than sorry!
Have you ever had any close calls like these? Have you learned a method for determining when you need to seek a doctor’s opinion?