I feel her pain

Let’s get one thing out of the way. All things being equal, it hurts way more when it’s my body doing the hurting – as opposed to someone else. My superpower is not empathy.

That said, sometimes I’d prefer to be the one in pain, rather than watching.

Chronic pain can feel mighty helpless but there are some ways to cope – and I’ve logged A LOT of hours in therapy and counseling over the last few years. I’ve been trying to overcome feelings helplessness in relation to MY pain. There can be a feedback loop to pain. You hurt, feel anxiety/stress because of the pain, which amplifies the pain. It’s much more complicated than that – and that’s only one component (of many) to pain, but breaking that loop helps.

And if you’ve ever heard me say something dismissive about meditation, you’ll never hear it from me again.

That’s not to say I don’t feel pain, but I rarely feel helpless anymore. I feel a certain amount of control. It’s not like I can flip a mental switch and make it go away, but I can do something about it – I can somewhat manage it. If nothing else, a bit of meditation helps take the stress/anxiety (at least partly) out of the equation, and the more tools you have to work on something, the more empowered you feel – and thus not so helpless. 

I can’t say the same thing now, with Cheryl suffering some pretty severe, somewhat debilitating, back pain. Now I feel helpless again. Feeling helpless leads to stress. Feeling stressed triggers more of my own pain, which is always in the background… and garsh-darn-it-all, in a way I think I AM feeling a bit of her pain.

Neither shaken, stirred, nor concussed!

All right!

So, I was on my way downstairs to write you a post. I’d been upstairs thinking on this one for almost an hour now. You know, that time on the weekend when you don’t have anything you have to do, you’ve slept-in like a teenager, and you’re awake but you don’t feel like getting out of bed… so you don’t.

Sorry, I know I’m mostly speaking to adults here. I don’t mean to brag.

Well, it was that kind of morning. I spent some quality time thinking up a great post, filled with some old-school nonsense and JK style humor. I was walking down the stairs with a little bit of hop to my giddy-up, and now I’m writing this post instead.

I did something I haven’t done much in my life, mostly due to a lack of opportunity. I really should have guessed by now. Stairs are not your friend. They should always be treated with respect. NEVER take them lightly, especially when you’ve got a little hop to your giddy-up.

I fell down the f…ing stairs. F…! Effing Ess! Frack me and the %&#@ing slippery socks I walked in on!

I’m mostly all right. No broken bones or torn ligaments. No brains were concussed, overly shaken, or stirred. Cheryl was kind of wound up though. This wasn’t the kind of mishap that happens on stair 8 of 10, where the potential energy is rapidly diminishing. This started at the top, man! A tumble may have been involved.

We’re eagerly waiting to see how my neck and back will fare in the hours to come.


Digging for pain and finding a vein

Whining about your dentist is a blogging stapple. Lucky for you, I’m pro-staple.

“Are you ok?”

This is the great rhetorical dental question of our time. I love it.

No offense to any women dentists out there, but this is the point in the post where I pretend to be something I’m not, and slip into the vernacular of the “real man.”

I love it because I think it takes some real stones to ask it. Sure, you’re lying prone with sharp – and often powered equipment in your mouth – but they don’t know you from the criminally insane. That question, under the wrong circumstances, could be a real problem.

Alas, I am not criminally insane, though I am reminded of something Salvador Dali said: “The only difference between a madman and myself is I AM NOT MAD!”

Back to my dental encounter…

Oh yeah. The veins in my neck bulge out like this all the time. My lips and jaw quiver like they have a life of their own sometimes. I have no idea why.

Of course, that’s not what came out of my mouth. I was counting on it. I’m non-confrontational by nature. Instead, a series of grunts and seemingly random noises on the low end of the register came out of my mouth (along with a slurry of drool, chemical run-off, and blood). Folks in the biz call it “chair-speak.”

Although I wonder, have dentists and their minions (aka hygenists) evolved the ability to understand chair-speak? Is it like the way parents learn to understand their children’s early attempts at communication, long before others can? Or is it a more innate ability of the species – like a mother’s ability to interpret a baby’s cry and instantly know what’s wrong.

Either way, I was obviously not relaxed, and I owed it to the latest quiver in my dentist’s arsenal.

I don’t know what it’s called. I think of it as “Satan’s Pickax.” Think of a combination tool of discomfort, a Swiss Army Knife of dental torture if you will: a razor-sharp pick, high-pressure washer, and a carpenter’s router. Plus, it also comes with mood music… it wails like a banshee who stole your coach’s wistle from high school phys-ed.

Good stuff.

To their credit, they did try swathing my gums with a numbing gel. To their discredit, they used a little extra elbow grease. It reminded me of folks who eat food with “half the calories,” but eat four times as much of the stuff.

Step right up folks! We’re offering one half the sensitivity while achieving two times the pain!

Otherwise, it was a routine visit. I don’t need major surgery. In fact I was congratulated on my superior brushing technique – which almost masks the fact I don’t floss enough.

I’m a big fan of the backhanded compliment, so I can appretiate it when someone works at their craft.

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The nice nurse cursed in my fit of whimsy

This is a true story. I say this because a liar wouldn’t dare lie about the truth. Therefore, this must be true – even if I was a liar. I’m not though.

Feel better?

It’s pretty darn near the two year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I only bring it up because I went to my oncologist this afternoon and he said, “it’s pretty darn near the two year anniversary of your diagnosis.” This is notable only because my oncologist is not the kind of guy who says “darn” too often. In fact, he’s pretty much the opposite… if you stereotype people based on their vocabulary like I do. I’ll give him this much: he’s pretty darn professional.

Any hoo, the meat of this post takes place after my visit with the doctor. He ordered up some blood work and I was shuttled off to see his nurse. His nurse is cool. We get along fabulously. Regular readers might read a little sarcasm into that sentence, but none was intended. We were gabbing it up like a couple old friends.

“Folks used to tell me I have good veins.” I say this as she’s prepping the needle.

She takes a look at my arm.

“They ain’t saying that no more are they?”

Then I give the rubber ball a squeeze.

“You’ve been holding out on me boy. There’s nothing wrong with those veins.”

Then she stuck me.

“You know, I never would have thought I’d be doing this,” gesturing to the needle I’m my arm.

“…” Manning up, I said nothing.

“Some people really do have a calling.”

As a butcher?!? What are you using, a spit? THIS F…ING HURTS!

“I just stumbled into this. Was it just luck I found something I’m so good at?”


You should know I’m a needle wimp. To tell you the truth, you could probably take the word needle out and still have a serviceable sentence. Still, I thought it was pretty damn near heroic to keep my mouth shut during my skewering this afternoon. The pain was bad enough, but I’m not the kind of guy who can just let that kind of irony go.

I feel kind of bad. I really do like this nurse. It’s just that she’s never drawn my blood before. Usually a finger prick is all I need, but this was apparently my semi-annual, full workup. Maybe she’ll be on vacation in six months.