Why Pain Shouldn't Be a Competition


Someone very dear to me had open-heart surgery and was then diagnosed with bowel cancer. He had surgery to remove a pretty large portion of his bowel and now has a permanent colostomy bag. He went through a lot of pain with radiation and chemotherapy and had it pretty rough for a while.

We were all afraid that we were going to lose him, but he defied the odds and fought back. He worked hard physically his entire life, and at 62, he was more fit than most people I know. I think that was the reason he came through it OK. He was strong, determined and as stubborn as all hell.

As much as I love this man, he would constantly frustrate me by saying, “You don’t know what pain is until you’ve been in my shoes.” I never once argued that with him, since it was true I would never know his pain, just as he would never know mine.

We may all have the same illness, syndrome or disability, but no one person can ever say their pain is any worse than another’s.

How can we really prove how much pain we are feeling when everyone rates pain differently? According to WebMD, we all have a different threshold for pain, and what’s dull for you may be extreme for me. Our pain threshold depends on the person, their genetic make-up and lifestyle.

I was having really bad wrist pain a while back, so I couldn’t work or pretty much use my hand at all. It felt as though a red hot knife was slicing up my forearm. It’s funny how you don’t realize how much you use something until you can’t. Now I know that my pain level would have been a 7 for me.

I went to a neurologist who had me hooked up to some electrodes and started stimulating the ulnar nerve to find the point of injury or compression. Now I didn’t cry or scream out during childbirth, but holy crap did I scream this time! The young woman said to me, “I’m sorry, that was the lowest rate and should not have hurt you.” I have lived with pain for as long as I can remember, and I can’t really think of a time without some form of pain or discomfort. 

Pain shouldn’t be a competition. “My pain is worse than yours” isn’t an appropriate comment. Any pain is painful, that’s why it’s called pain. 

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