Living With Chronic Pain (No, Beer Is Not Always the Answer)

The New York Times is running a three-part series on living with chronic pain. (The link is to Part Two, and from there you can also get to Part One. The series concludes next week.)

It's fairly basic stuff, but it's nice to see this acknowledgment of the issues involved. For the past fourteen months, I've "enjoyed" a crash course in chronic pain. Torn rotator cuffs, the doctor told me. "Not much we can do for it," he said. Bad news. And depressing, too, I discovered as the months wore by. Because that's the nightmare of chronic pain: The body hurts, but the spirit hurts more. I can't speak for others, but in my case, the pain transformed daily life into drudgery, and the "future" into a burden. Every day, I was just a little less interested in the world around me, less willing to engage with friends, family, work.

This story has a happy ending. In September, a different doctor provided a different diagnosis: bone spurs. Those can be fixed. Last week he operated to remove bone spurs on my right shoulder. He'll "fix" the left shoulder as soon as the right one heals. But for millions of people, there won't be a happy ending. Either the physical issues can't be resolved, or they lack the funds needed to pay for good medical care.

So today I raise my glass in celebration of modern medicine -- and pray for all those who wake each morning knowing that their's will be a day of pain rather than pleasure.