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  • Writer's pictureJoana

Pain, that unwelcome friend (1)

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Many of us, after surgery and treatments, are left with pain and discomfort. Most of us are told to just live with it, as though pain is a condition for being in remission. This is the irony about cancer: you never really feel the illness until you get the treatment to be rid of it. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? And is pain a necessity of recovery? I think not.

Truth is, even before my encounter with cancer, I had already been living with pain. Mostly it was in my hips and knees. It was annoying, always present, limiting my movement and activity. I thought, like many of us, that pain was a normal condition to be expected when you reached “a certain age”, or lived a certain lifestyle. It was, after all, “manageable”. Then cancer came, and then it came again, and with the treatments the pain worsened. Now there was the pain at the surgery site, and the pain in the shoulder, and the expander pain, and the joint pain. I fell a few times – pain. I almost broke my knee – more pain. The slightest effort – pain. My little efforts to get “back in shape” only led to more pain. I learned to live with it. I thought that it was to be expected, the price to pay for surviving.

So many of us just resign to a reality of pain, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Be it neuropathy, phantom limb pain, movement restrictions, internal organ dysfunction, or even emotional distress. It takes a huge toll on our quality of life, slowly eroding our appetite for living and continuing the damage the cancer started: it makes us want to shut down, our brains become foggy, we lose touch with ourselves, disconnect socially, limit our movement and activity, stay in our safe zones. Doctors themselves are often powerless in dealing with chronic pain. Yet billions of people live with pain, daily! Among cancer survivors, over 35% of us report chronic pain after recovery. And it’s supposed to be recovery!

How I got rid of pain

During my recovery, I started a training program in Anat Baniel Method Neuromovement. Originally I took the training to help my son in his development, and to work with other children. The method is reputed highly effective for learning disabilities and disorders in children, and I wanted him to experience a new modality, one that wouldn’t make him feel inadequate and that would speak to his brain first. But much to my surprise, I was the one who was transformed. All my pain went away, and I recovered mobility, flexibility, and a vitality that I hadn’t felt for quite a few years!. I remember spontaneously breaking into a run to catch a bus, something I hadn’t done …EVER! (and I don’t mean taking the bus, haha). I can even feel graceful, even with all the disfigurement the surgeries have caused.

It was like being free and young again, and I finally feel at home in my body. Like I could befriend myself, in this new reality. I may never regain my full physical integrity, but I can finally take pleasure in moving, in living. I sometimes lie in bed and marvel at being pain free. And with the pain gone, the fog lifted: all aspects of my life improved: my memory, attention, my focus, and my ability to manage my emotions. That’s how much energy pain sucks out of you. No amount of painkillers can give you your brain back.

If you want to know more about pain, read this next post.

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