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CHRONIC PAIN IS NO JOKE

CHRONIC PAIN IS NO JOKE

By Jana Koch

I have chronic back pain and it’s no joke. It is the most debilitating pain that I’ve experienced and the only thing that has ever caused me to pass out in my entire life. Every morning I wake up and stretch in bed, then I roll to my side and gingerly sit up. I carefully slide off the bed, stand, and assess the pain level for the day.  Well, looks like today is a good day, I say. Other mornings, not so much. Everyday I have to assess what kind of a day it’s going to be.

As a young girl, I was super active and loved all sports, specifically gymnastics. It’s a sport that really challenges a person both physically and mentally. It’s a constant checking of balance and giving 100% of yourself so you don’t miss a grip or land on your head or any other disastrous thing that can happen while flying through the air or landing on a four inch piece of wood 4 feet off the ground. I loved it. I had a lot of bumps and bruises throughout those years which gave me courage and faith in my ability to do hard things that the sport required. Every time I fell from the beam or crashed from a flip, I was forced to try again. The success after continual failure taught me to never give up. To keep trying, keep pushing, and keep having faith that I could accomplish the task before me.

Now that I am older, the once loved sport of mine has not only left me with many fond memories, but also physical reminders of what a grueling sport can do to a body over the years.  

Chronic pain is my new reality.

It’s been years since I started dealing with back pain from degenerative disc disease. I have two bulging and torn discs that are almost gone which means almost bone on bone, and often leak spinal fluid into my nerves. I remember the first x-ray and diagnosis when the doctor told me that my back at age 35 looked like that of a 65 year old women.

I cried.

What will it be like in another 20 years? Will I be in a wheelchair? Will be able to take care of myself or play with my kids or be active?

Well now I’m there, 20 years later and not in a wheelchair. Hallelujah. I’m still functioning but it’s a daily challenge. There are surgeries for back pain but I’m no longer a good candidate for that with my bone degeneration (and the surgery hasn’t been perfected yet) so odds are only about 30% it would help. I could also try narcotics, but that is a dangerous path with chronic pain that I’m trying to avoid. But, thanks to countless doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, pain management doctors and even a naturepath, I have mostly good days. However, a couple of times a year now I have what I call relapses or episodes of back pain that completely debilitate me for a good 1-4 weeks.

Nothing ever has or maybe never will take all the pain away.

A while ago, I had one such relapse. I got up in the morning feeling great and got dressed to go over to do some church service. As I bent down to put on my shoe, I felt a horrible pain, and in an instant, my next several weeks were changed. I felt a piercing  pain shoot through my spine and I fell to the ground. My husband helped get me to my knees, and got me back up to my bed. He lifted and carried me to the bathroom twice a day and brought me food. It was Presidents day weekend so I couldn’t reach a doctor and I couldn’t even get to the car to go to the ER.

For the next 5 days I lay in my bed, taking expired muscle relaxants and anti-inflamitory meds until I could reach a doctor to give me something new, thinking about how tired I was of all this pain, never knowing when it was going to strike again.  I am a mother and a grandma of 6 adorable grandkids and I want to be active and fun and help their mommies.

I don’t have time for this.

I began to have doubts and fears about my future. I felt myself wonder why, and where is the help I so badly needed. It not only affects me physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. It takes the energy out of me and leaves me feeling sad and empty. I actually got to the point of asking if the rest of my life was all worth it?

What will I be like in another 10 years? Have I been here long enough? Have I made a difference? Have I done enough good?  

I felt so down while laying there, but it gave me plenty of time to ponder, pray and plead for help from my Savior. I knew I needed to increase my faith and trust that I could keep going. I began to change my attitude. I felt peace and comfort and was reminded that it could be so much worse. Other people close to me have difficult challenges too and are trying to be brave and strong and positive.

I feel like chronic pain is one of my tests in life — something I have to overcome and I can’t do it without Him. I felt a warm rush of my Savior’s love fill my mind and heart and I knew that he knew what I was going through. I just needed more faith to do this hard and painful thing. 

Each day I wake and ask God to give me courage and strength to keep going. I ask Him to guide me to the right professionals or people to help me get through this trial and I am guided to a person or place or book that gives me another avenue of help.

I learned through my gymnastics as a young girl, when I have a set back, I need to keep pushing on, never give up and keep having faith.

Much like chronic pain, spiritual pain can at times be just as debilitating and lonely. It can feel like even with fervent prayer and scripture study our trials aren’t going to be taken away.  Sometimes we may ask “are you listening God?” “How much longer?” It is then that we have to dig even deeper in our faith and accept that He knows. And then, when we finally get some kind of relief from the physical or spiritual pain, it becomes so sweet and wonderful.

Through the process, we can begin to see a small light at the end of the tunnel and our focus can change from please take this pain away, to how can I handle this better? I have tasted the bad, which now gives me a better appreciation for the relief and the good that He offers me. I recognize His hand in my life.

I expect that this will be on going for my future, but I have faith that I am not alone. He knows my pain and He will continue to direct me and help me continue a healthy, active life. I am blessed that I can still be active and do so many things that I want to do. Mostly, I can continue to serve my family and others. I know it’s because of my faith in Him, who has felt all pain, that I can continue on…

I still have mountains to move! And more grandbabies to hold! And more people to serve! I love this life and I have Faith in my Savior.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs , and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions , he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed .” Isaiah 53:3-5

4 Comments

  1. Ahhh Jana, I am moved by your faith and determination to find healing. I can empathize with you in your situation, and I know how heartbreaking it is to hear those words. You are such an incredible woman and your strength gives me hope for my own future. Thank you for being such a wonderful example to me! Love you!

  2. Jana, I knew you had back pain but didn’t know how bad it was. My heart goes out to you! I have a ruptured disk too, and it seems like the worst pain ever. I totally relate to your feelings about the future. I will keep you in my prayers, and like you, I am working every day to heal and make a difference. I want you to know that you have made a huge difference in my life and have enabled my son to complete medical school and helped raise those darling grandchildren. I can never thank you enough. Good days are ahead…we both have faith that help is just around the corner…from the angels on earth as well as in heaven. I love you!

  3. DearJana,

    I’ve read your beautifully written,but very painful story.
    I can really say that I literally feel your pain,because as you know I was diagnosed 5 years ago with RA.
    Jana, despite your health problems YOU look amazing,and its hard to believe that youre grandma of six.
    I wish you only the best .
    Much love,and million hugs.
    Eva

  4. Jana, I am just now getting time to read completely through all of these stories. You’ve been through so much, and yet are such an amazing person. I’ve looked up to you since I’ve known you. Your fire and drive and love and laughter spill over into my life. You and Brent have been such an inspiring couple. Thank you for all you are sharing here. Much love to you and thank you for your adorable Amanda. I’m so glad she’s in my and Tommy’s life.

    Love, Gina

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