Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Sword In The Crohn

"Can you rate your pain on a level of 1 to 10?"

A question we as Crohnies are asked more often than most. Pain and Crohn's go hand in bowel. We can experience pain regularly, depending on the severity of our illness. Some suffer incredible pain during diagnosis and early treatment, later either going into 'remission' or finding the pain much more manageable. Others are in constant pain and discomfort of varying degrees.
For me, the pain I experienced before my diagnosis was something I've never been able to properly describe. Most people liken the pain of Crohn's to labour pains and contractions; having never had any bambinos myself I can't agree or disagree. Only difference there of course, pregnancy is over after a few hours, this is a pain we have to manage for the rest of our lives. Slightly daunting prospect that.
Pre Crohns and prior to visiting a doctor, I suffered horrendous pain in my stomach, lower back, legs, and ached all over the other bits I haven't mentioned. I visited the doctor a few times complaining of these pains but was left feeling stupid and made to feel I was over reacting - this pain was probably just indigestion, trapped wind, or period pain I was told curtly. I knew it was none of the above, I knew something was seriously wrong but I was also the one feeling helpless and at the mercy of my GP.
The last visit to my GP consisted of me lifting my blouse to let her examine me, almost passing out when she touched me then collapsing into tears. She suspected I had appendicitis and wanted me rushed to hospital. I say 'rushed' - I was to walk home, get a bus, sit out a 40minute journey then check myself into hospital.
A few awful months followed where I was in and out of hospitals awaiting the entirely inappropriate operation to remove my appendix.
Thankfully they never actually got round to it, and I was eventually diagnosed with Crohn's. Throughout all of these trips to and from hospital, I was in incredible pain. Pain that seemingly no treatment could begin to touch. Any medication brutal enough to have a go at the pain made me violently ill, and unsurprisingly vomiting didn't ease the stomach pain any.
Crohn's pain cannot be explained away by quoting a number between 1 and 10. It's unique to each patient and everyone's pain thresholds are different. I understand doctors and nurses need some form of tool to measure pain but as a patient there truly aren't enough words in the dictionary to convey pain.
The pain I went through prior to my surgery was staggering. It meant I could barely walk, breathe, or do anything more than lie in the one vaguely comfortable position I could find, stiff as a board, until it either subsided or I fell into a drug induced stupor. Preferably both.
Now I suffer more from sickness and all the other lovely symptoms of Crohns on a daily basis. This is far from pleasant but a relief that the pain is minimal. And I can eat without feeling like I'm trying to digest razor blades, which is a lovely bonus.
When the pain strikes, like tonight, I remember how awful my life could be and feel thankful I'm not suffering like this everyday. I also panic a little that it won't pass and I'll be back to where I was pre-diagnosis. But mainly I think of everyone else who is going through the same thing. How they may be feeling this same pain too, now and everyday, and how awful that must be. And how I wish there was anything I could say to them to soothe an achy gut. But all I can do is try to sympathise, and show others the same consideration and tolerance I would hope others would gift me.

So, how is your sympathy, on a scale of 1-10?

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