Tag Archives: pain


Today’s project was going through my handbag and separating out the bare essentials.  This might sound like the most trivial subject  you’ve ever heard me talk about (and there have been many), but you weren’t here on Wednesday of this past week when I went through the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced outside of once having an abcessed tooth and another time having appendicitis. 

I’m not used to pain.  I’m used to minor discomforts.  Mostly associated with being my age, I think.  When I wake up in the morning, I sort of hold a finger up in the air to test the state of the union, so to speak.  I have a mild headache.  I’m a little stiff.  And so on.  Ibuprofen, coffee, and moving around usually fix everything. 

Wednesday was no different until about noon.  My shoulders were hurting.  This just seems like such a stupid problem to me.  People are starving to death in Somalia and dying of cancer all over the planet, and your shoulders hurt?  Give me a break.  But it got to the point that it was all I could think about.  (A specialty of pain…that is kind of its point.  Your brain says, I insist that you pay attention–right now.)

That evening, I was eventually forced to take half of a Percocet.  Why, you may ask, do I even have Percocet?  The answer is, two months ago I had to have a breast biopsy (long story) and the doctor sent me home with a prescription for 15 Percocet tabs.  I’ve now used 3 1/2 of them.  But I saw no other hope for the pain. 

The next day, I made it until about 3:00 P.M.  and had to make an emergency trip to the pharmacy.  I bought cream (basically a generic form of Bengay), and Aleve–the next step up from Ibuprofen but well below Percocet.  I took an Aleve right away, but waited until I got home to use the cream, which turned out to be magic. 

By Friday, I was hyperalert to whatever I was doing that might bring the pain on.  Oddly enough, standing was a problem.  I couldn’t do it long.  At the least twinge, I sat down, and that eventually helped, though not right away.  This however, is not a long-term solution.  I’m pretty enamored of standing up and walking. 

After a lot of diligent Googling, I realize I’ve damaged the trapezius muscle.  Hopefully temporarily. 

Now to the culprit:  it’s the handbag.  I’m quite sure.  I had read an article about it some time ago, probably in the New York Times.  Women are suffering all kinds of neck, back, and shoulder problems from carrying oversized bags. 


My bag is not nearly as large as the ones shown in the article, but it’s big enough, and it’s heavy.  One of the interesting things in the article is that doctors say women should not carry bags that are more than 10% of their body weight.  So that would limit me to 11.4 pounds.  Hello!  My guess is that my bag normally weighs in the neighborhood of 18. 

My cat weighs 15, which is large for a cat, and I find it a struggle to pick her up and carry her.  So I don’t do that often.  And I don’t carry her on my shoulder every day. 

At first I thought I would keep the same bag and just reduce the number of items in it.  That will Not Work.  Sooner or later I’ll be tempted to add stuff to it.  So I must have a small bag that things I think I might need at some point this centruy won’t fit in. 

Fakename is now taking suggestions for a new handbag.  Besides being small, I have only one other requirement:  it has to have pockets.  Shopper friends, I need your help!  And you know who you are 🙂


Pain Management

It turns out I know a bit about this.  It started in 2006 when I came down with appendicitis at the end of March, and had to have an appendectomy in the middle of the night.  That was the worst pain I ever had.  Once I woke up sufficiently to focus, I read this pamphlet in my room in the hospital that said, If you’re in pain, we believe you.  Tell us and we will fix it.  What was so revolutionary about that to me is that I worked my way through college in the early seventies, working in a hospital for three years.  The nurses were stingy with pain medication, and considered people who begged for it to be budding addicts.  Of course they were reflecting the attitude of doctors at the time. 

The whole attitude of the medical profession about pain management has done a 180 degree turn. 

After my appendectomy, I spent 4 days in the hospital and got two pain pills every four hours.  On the third day, I asked to back off, taking one pill instead of two.  Because I was hoping to go home the next day, and thought it would be a good idea to get used to a little more pain (and a little more being alert and conscious seemed like a good idea too.)  The nurse said, “This is not a good idea.”

“Pain”, she said, “is something you have to stay ahead of, because by the time you feel it, we can’t give you enough to fix it.”  I insisted.  Sure enough, two hours later, I was in pain, but they couldn’t give me anything else for two more hours.  I didn’t quite get the logic of that…since you only gave me one pill instead of two, two hours ago, why can’t you give me the other one now?  It’s all still a mystery. 

After that experience, I never again rejected pain medication anybody wanted to give me.  I’m not about to be addicted to anything…I like being alert too well. 

And after that experience, 2006 turned out to be the year from Hell.  Probably as a result of the appendectomy, I developed an inflammation in a nerve in my left shoulder, which was seriously painful.  In the course of having first an MRI and then a CT scan to investigate that, they found out I had breast cancer in the right breast.   I had a lumpectomy on a Friday.  I was back at work on Monday.  Three weeks later I had surgery to investigate whether or not the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, called a sentinel node biopsy.  After both those surgeries, I was given a minor type of pain medication which I maybe took for a day.  A month or so after the sentinel node biopsy, I started radiation therapy and almost at the end of that, I found out I had broken a rib.  At that point I got really serious pain drugs, which when you think about it is kind of funny.  Nerve damage, breast cancer, surgery, whatever.  But broken rib?  Please allow us to help you. 

Perception is everything.  But I have become accustomed to doctors who will anticipate your pain.  Who will do anything in their power to prevent it.  Who know that pain, in and of itself, will cause elevated blood pressure and interfere with your ability to heal.  Another point to remember is that studies show that when you leave pain medication administration to the person themselves, they use less. 

Now we come to the point.  By popular request, people want to know what happened when I had to have my eye injected Wednesday.  It was painless.  But they refused to give me anything for pain to take home.  I asked for something to numb my eye once the numbing medications they gave me wore off, and they said, We don’t do that.  I just wanted something like a drop for my eye.  It wasn’t like I was asking for heroin.  They said, numbing medications for your eye are bad for your cornea.  They told me it would not be unusual to have some pain and reddening of the eye, and that if it was extreme, I should call them.  I said I didn’t expect it to hurt.  The nurse said, “It will”.  Take Ibuprofen. 

So by the time it became extreme, their office was closed.  Apparently opthamologists (or the one I saw anyway) haven’t gotten with the program of anticipating pain and getting a head start on it.  I still can’t get over their refusal to give me something to numb the eye after the procedure.  I mean, did they think I would shoot up some Lidocaine?  What were they thinking?