Musashi Mix Inq

Palliativity 212: Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

Posted on October 10, 2013

This past year in treatment has completely reconfigured my life, all for the better.

In January, following my first solid diagnosis for my chronic pain condition after 15 years, I underwent Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) for cervical facet syndrome. The effect was almost immediate. I experienced a 90% decrease in my baseline pain. There aren’t words for such an experience. For the first time since middle school, I allowed myself the luxury of optimism in regards to my condition. This meant that my general outlook in life also sky-rocketed to new heights.

Going to rehab wasn’t just the same old exercise of fighting back the tide. I was actually getting results. My left arm went from being essentially dead to 100% functionality. I no longer had to carry my ridiculously large bag of palliatives everywhere I went. No more injecting myself with lidocaine multiple times a day. The end of late-night stress eating combined with the ability to work out once again allowed me to lose over 20 pounds without really even trying. I even started contemplating a return to my own judo fighting career. I weened myself off of most of my liver and wallet-killing meds and went from two vicodin a day down to just one pill every other week. All of me was recovering.

My first solo art show opened at the height of my elation in Spring. This new chapter in my life came on suddenly and I didn’t think that anything could ever take me down from this high.

In May, I started to falter. Pain returned, dull and short-lived at first.  Isolated to the right side this time, I met with my doc and had another session of RFA. The recovery experience was not at all like before. I began experiencing 5 day cycles of pain drifting from one side of my neck to the other. I was crushed.

Even so, I rallied and made a point of appreciating how far I’d come. I gathered my strength and picked myself up for the next stage of this quest. New meds, opiates and very aggressive massage helped to manage the pain by sumer’s end.

It wasn’t until this week’s check-in with my doctor that I could appreciate a broader perspective of this year in treatment. 15 years of pain is going to take time and determination to fully mend. My doctor is confident that my goal is still firmly within reach.

The original RFA back in January relieved me of most of my chronic pain, but it took a few months for my body to recalibrate to this completely new state of being. All the aches and pains that I am experiencing now have probably existed all along but had been overshadowed by my damaged nerves. For years, my soft tissue had settled into a routine of functioning just enough to get by. This year as my expectations and optimism grew, I was suddenly pushing my body to work like never before. I couldn’t recognize it at the time, but since May I’ve been steadily continuing to gain back functionality and minimizing the pain.

As with anything worth finishing, the last 10% with the goal in sight feels like the toughest part of the journey.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

“I was left to my own devices.

Many days fell away with nothing to show.

But if you close your eyes,

Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?

And if you close your eyes,

Does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?”


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