Monday, March 2, 2015

Pain Prayers

Recently, while receiving intravenous treatments, I talked to a cancer nurse about the ever changing faces of other survivors. When you get treatments week after week, and visit clinics month after month, you see a lot of the same faces come and go. After so much loss and pain, you start to not want to know where they go or why you stop seeing them. You choose to think they all made it. You make up names and success stories for each of them. The brave "Lady in Pink" beats breast cancer and is smiling somewhere. The "Patchwork Sweater Guy" is in remission and back to lurking in libraries. The "Dark Eyed Child" got a transplant and is now playing soccer with the brightest of eyes.

She told me how that was understandable, for it is very hard to watch and know. She has seen not only the toll treatments and illnesses can have on people, but how many lose their battle. She then added, "For some of them, though, it was long enough. They were ready." I understood that, as only a survivor can.

Life is precious, but pain is hard. Continuous pain is brutal. It chips away at who you are.

All people think they understand pain. We all have pain and understand it in our own ways from our own experiences. No one person's pain is more valid than another's. No one's pain is lessened by another person suffering more. Pain is personal.

But, for survivors, there is a different type of understanding. A knowledge that comes from knowing constant pain. Pain that never goes away, which only ebbs and flows from one extreme to another. Relentless and unforgiving. And, at the most extreme moments of suffering, they live with the Pain Prayers.

They have begged for the pain to ease. They have prayed to whatever spiritual force they believe in for relief. They have pleaded for it to stop. They have screamed for it to be over. They have reached a point where they can not imagine the pain stretching out endlessly before them any longer. For some, the Pain Prayers become simply, "No more. Enough."

If you are lucky, you get a momentary reprieve. The pain eases and ebbs in your favor. That is a good day.

There is bravery in every struggle. There is bravery in hanging on. There is bravery in fighting to the bitter end. But, there is also bravery in letting go. Sometimes people are ready. And, that too, is brave. There can be peace. We are all survivors, even the ones who are ready, because they are survived by people who love and will remember them.

You can never judge anyone's "Enough." 

I intimately know all the Pain Prayers. I have screamed for it to be over. I have said simply, "No more. Enough." I have been lucky to get reprieves that last long enough to be thankful I am still here. I have hope.

I fear the pain stretching out endlessly though and can not imagine it lasting forever. I live with the knowledge I would choose different treatment paths if faced with the same decisions again. I understand and do not judge how anyone else survives. 

But, I also know...
The other day I saw the "Lady in Pink" walking through a store. Her hair had started to grow back. She was no longer pale and she was smiling. She had a wonderful laugh. I was glad to see her and to know she made it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Drake, for this window to peer through.


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