Pain Awareness Month Stories: A Pathway to Pain
Driving my father to the emergency room for the first time in over 20 years, I could never have imagined how that day would change my life forever. After all, my father was always the tough guy, the one who could endure any physical hardship and the one who was always there for me as my number one supporter and protector. Often, though, I felt the opposite of him. As a child and even into adulthood, I seemed to have a low threshold for pain – from shrieking in fear of receiving those pesky shots to wincing in pain from paper cuts. On the other hand, my father could accidentally hammer his finger and barely make a sound. My father was the yin to my yang. So when he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme, my world shattered. And for the first time, I saw my father in pain.
My father battled cancer as I completed my first three years of medical school, until he finally succumbed to his disease in January of my third year. Watching my father suffer through his cancer and multiple recurrences was demoralizing, but seeing him suffer more when he was in physical pain would only make it worse. Whenever he felt increased levels of pain, it affected his mood and behavior, making him someone almost unrecognizable. During these periods, my mother, younger brother, and I would endure undue stress with concern and apprehension. By managing my father’s pain, he was able to return to the loving, caring, and affectionate parent and spouse that we all knew.
Many patients have chronic pain stemming from some type of incurable disease process. And although many pain patients may not be able to be fully cured, it is evident from my personal experience and seeing patients in clinic that helping relieve even some pain can lead to large positive changes not only for the for the patient themselves, but also for their family and friends.
My experience instilled in me a passion to help others, like my father, to manage their pain and decrease their daily suffering. I have developed a deep and personal understanding of the multidimensional effects of cancer-related pain patients and also recognize how to best empathize with their loved ones. I’m excited for the opportunity to work in pain management and become a progressive pain physician dedicated to liberating patients from the confines of their pain.