Professional Pain Patients….When They Are ‘Family’

I just read some posts from a cousin I have no contact with because of her toxic and totally egocentric ‘interaction’ with people.  The posts were on a support and encouragement page for another (mutual) cousin who has recently been diagnosed with colon cancer.  She has had several months of pain and increasing symptoms that she had surgery for last week, and is getting ready for radiation and chemo.  The pain she has had has been to the point of not being able to eat, walk, or interact with anybody other than doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and close family and very close friends.  Everything else has been pretty much via this support page (which has been great!).  This last week I have been e-mailing her, as she’s had questions about chemo that she knows I’ve been through personally, though for a different type of cancer.

The toxic cousin has been telling the cousin who is  in immobilizing pain to do some distraction exercises and activities, or  other things that are fine for chronic pain.  There is no place for comparing what the sick cousin has to the chronic pain from the other one.   ‘Toxic’ has no clue what someone else is going through – it’s all through her eyes.  Sometimes, that is good- but there is never a ‘conversation’ that doesn’t completely revolve around her medical issues (unless she’s calling someone – me – names based on no knowledge of me as an adult).  I think people, in general, relate things to their frame of reference- but they still know how to focus on the one with the serious current issues, and not always make it about them.   But if ‘victim’ could focus on a marathon of TV shows, it’s not taking much to help her pain.  Everybody has different experiences with pain- that’s a given.  I just know that if I’m having that bad of a day, I’m not able to follow the story lines in consecutive TV shows.

I have to walk a fine line, because I have some similar diagnoses that ‘toxic’ cousin has. I am also in chronic pain. I ‘get it’.   I try to use what I know about those things to help folks (as well as my nursing background).  It’s not a competition !  But I have taken care of too many people as an RN, and read enough continuing education materials about the types of pain to know that ‘toxic’ is completely out of her league when it comes to cancer pain- but since HER pain is all she knows, she seems to think that her little distraction tactics should do the trick. Try a hedgehog with lava hot quills in her butt, and then maybe she’d get a little clue.  The cousin dealing with cancer has been going through hell.

I think what makes me the most angry is that ‘toxic’ can’t get through a post without it being in some way about HER !  😮  The site where this is all going on is supposed to help and encourage the one going through SO much.  SHE is the one who needs the support.  I try to use personal experience to help answer questions, and give some sort of emotional relief -that it’s possible to get through what’s going on.  If what I say about myself has no purpose in helping the other person when offering support, I don’t think it’s appropriate.  JMHO.

‘Toxic’ has been through some lousy stuff- there is no question about that.  I don’t doubt that she has significant pain. We have at least one disorder in common, and it is very painful- but it’s chronic pain.  It’s what we live with every day- it’s not causing abrupt and intense changes in our current level of functioning.  Chronic pain is our ‘normal’.   That’s way different than what someone with a growing tumor is feeling, in a very sensitive area- who can’t move without it being aggravated.  The pain management people are doing much more now for the cousin with cancer, so it looks like the one actually going through all of this will get some relief- at least enough to be able to get through the next phases of treatment.

I just needed to vent.  I understand when people don’t acknowledge pain, because ‘you look fine’.  But comparing what is a daily part of life of someone with chronic pain  to the sudden bombardment of life-altering changes  for someone who was just diagnosed with a very tricky cancer angered me.  Chronic pain is hard.  It never goes away, at least long enough to matter- but it’s not going to cause physical damage to me.  My cousin who is going through this really, REALLY hard time needs support- not someone who is taking things and making it about her, and somewhat trivializing the cancer hell. Maybe it’s how she tries to relate to people, I don’t know.  It just annoys the snot out of me.  She has a knack for that.  But I do wish her well. And I wish she’d find a new way to interact with people.  It takes a deliberate action to look for the good.  Being a ‘victim’ is quite unimpressive. Survivors are the heroes I respect.  It’s all a matter of perspective. And choice.

In the last 10 years, I’ve never heard of anything positive in ‘toxic”s life. Not once.  I had reached out to her 10 years ago (several times via e-mail), knowing that she had some of the same issues I deal with, in hopes of offering some support.  I never heard from her until she sent me some snarky political information YEARS later, though she hadn’t had any contact with me  for more than 20 years… like she knew anything about me.  And she was completely ‘talking down’ to me and resorted to nasty name calling… she’s 2-3 years older than I am- certainly no ‘wise elder’.  It was like an 8 year old schoolyard brat.  She’s sick in more ways than she admits, I fear.

And again, I do wish her the best.   If I become like her, someone just shoot me. 😮

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One thought on “Professional Pain Patients….When They Are ‘Family’

  1. ‘Toxic’ is in so much horrendous pain, she went to an outdoor concert last night, and took photos !! She also complained that she’d probably get the walking pneumonia back she’s had all summer…. SERIOUSLY???? Evidently people CAN still respond when they’re brain dead.

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