Monday, January 27, 2014

Marijuana and Chronic Pain

That title is super funny, I laughed like both Beavis and Butthead for several minutes after I wrote it.  That being said let us continue.  I have smoked pot a few times in my life, a couple of times when I was twelve and then a few subsequent times through the years.  Those subsequent times usually involving a girl I have a crush on saying "would you like a hit?".  Now why have I only smoked pot a handful of times?  The answer is two fold, one pot did not do anything for me and two and oh so more important I found alcohol.  Alcohol did something to me, something so nice I did not feel much of a need to try anything else.  Now that we have dispensed with the preliminaries let us continue about marijuana and chronic pain.

I have been in continuous pain for coming up on four years.  The first time I went oh shit what is wrong with me is when after a dinner with my dad I felt like someone had rammed a railroad spike through my back to the point where it was almost coming out of the right side of my chest.  If any of you all would like more details on what happened when I was first aware of being ill and the subsequent process of being diagnosed go ahead and search my blog.  I am pretty sure I have talked about it in the past on this forum and if it turns out I have not talked about it in the past let me know and I will talk about it, maybe, if I feel like it.  The reason I will not search my blog for the entry and link to it here is I am sick, wink, wink, nudge, nudge you know what I mean.  Anywho I have become well acquainted with pain and the legal ways the medical community tries to address it.

First lets talk about my constant companion pain.  Before I became ill I had experienced some very physically painful things.  The highlight of which is being on the receiving end of pedestrian/automobile accident.  The result of that accident was a severally broken leg and ankle.  My foot was no longer being held to my leg through bone, it was skin and tendons and muscles and such that were keeping it all together.  My friend Drew picked me up out of the road and preceded to drive me to the closet "hospital" there in rural Utah.  I use the term "hospital" loosely but that is for a later discussion.  During the drive to the hospital I was holding my foot off the of the floor and when we would go around turns it would become painfully clear (I am aware of the pun but it was not intended it is just there) that my foot was no longer attached.  When we would begin to turn the inertia of my foot would try and continue on in a straight line while the leg and the rest of me would follow the turn with car being that I was firmly in my seat.  The foot was essentially being held like a pendulum.  That hurt a lot, it hurt worse than being hit by the car and at that point in my life hurt worse than anything I could imagine.

I have other painful stories but hopefully that will suffice to establish my pain bonafides.  In the four years that I have been aware of having sarcoidosis there have been times that the pain was like a bad hangover.  You could function but you were not happy to be functioning.  Then there were other times when the sarcoidosis began to damage my nerves responsible for pain.  At that point I experienced something so far beyond any other pain in my life I have no words to describe it.  In the past I have tried to describe the new pain with analogies involving ball peen hammers and knives but they fall short and pale in comparison to the actual experience of this new pain.

In the beginning when the pain was like a bad hangover I toughed it out.  My joints ached, my head ached, my chest ached, etc, but I was tough and needed no pain medication.  I even mocked people in online support groups that complained about their pain and said they could no longer work.  Now I no longer mock anyone when they say they are in pain and I can no longer work.  I have tried the traditional prescription pain medications and have not found anything that would take away the pain or alter my state to the point where I would consider myself free from pain.  I have tried many "nontraditional" methods of pain relief as well, I would no longer call these alternative because they are mainstream you just do not need a prescription to get them.  I have not been freed from the pain using these techniques as well.

I guess I should clarify one thing real quick, what do I think the definition of free from pain is?  I do not think it is not the absence of pain but the control of pain. Control so that I could have a moment of joy that was not overshadowed or shadowed by pain.  The ability to make love to my wife with neither of us worrying about the cost that will be paid during and after in pain.  I would like to be able to read a book and let it transport me away like it did when I was a child.  Reading saved me as a child and as an adult I turned to books to save me again.  The pain keeps me tethered to this world and I am unable to be transported away and saved by the joy of reading.  I loved watching movies for much the same reason that I love books but the pain keeps me leashed to this world even when watching movies.  I would like to go out with friends whenever we had the desire to paint the town red instead of being bound to my home because the pain is too great a hurdle to overcome.  I want to be able to host friends at my house without the fear that they will be forced to watch me writhe in pain.

Sometimes the pain is not so great that I writhe but is still great enough that I can not enjoy anyone's company, my wife, my friends or even just the company that a good book or movie can provide.  When pain stays with you and never leaves to give you a respite it is very isolating and I become lonely even when surrounded by people that love me.  I would like even just a few moments peace to be able to write with no effort and let the words flow out freely and let them carry some of the weight from my soul to the paper and to lighten my load as I approach the finish line.

Now what does any of this downer talk have to do with marijuana?  Simple I live in Utah which has a zero tolerance policy towards marijuana, no medical or recreational use of marijuana is allowed.  I have read that marijuana can potentially manage chronic (I am aware of the pun but again not intended) pain with a great deal of success as rated by the patients.  I do not know if it would work to manage my pain but I would like to try it.  It is not really feasible for me to go to another state to try it for pain management and if I were to be caught with it in Utah in my home I could lose the home and my wife could lose her job.  At the end of the day alcohol has no medicinal properties that I am aware of and several known health risks and is legal.  While marijuana has health risks that as far as I can tell are less than alcohol (not no risk do not send me angry emails, marijuana does have health risks) and does have several known medicinal properties and is illegal.

Please let me legally try some marijuana it may give me some freedom back that I have lost to pain.  Worse case I might get high this time and enjoy myself which in the past I did not and the best case is it gives me and my wife huge parts of our lives back through its ability to manage my pain.


Small post script it would also be the Libertarian thing to do.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Today's Post Is About Nothing

I have been staring at the computer screen for an hour.  It is Monday and that is the self imposed deadline for my weekly blog post.  I usually like to have the blog post finished by Sunday night and then publish it on  Monday but this past week nothing has come to me.  When I say nothing has come to me that is one hundred percent true but what I have learned about myself in the past three years of forced introspection is that when nothing comes to me it is because I am running (metaphorically of course) as fast as I can from something. 

I had the large break in writing blog posts over the holidays.  The nothing that came to me over the holidays was I did not want to talk about my mom slowly shuffling off her mortal coil and that my dad had shuffled off his mortal coil.  I got out what I was feeling about my mom out and I have begun to work out what the absence of my dad means but that is a long road.  I did spit out the beginning of the dad thing but that may or may not be completed in this life.

Which brings us to now Monday at 1:00 pm Mountain Standard Time and the uncomfortable realization that I am running from nothing.  I was hoping by the third paragraph that there would be some cathartic breakthrough and that is not the case.  Whatever has been chasing me this week is good at camouflage and as far a I can tell is nothing.  Tune in next week where I am pretty sure the post will be about something but could possibly be more musing about nothing but either way it will be better than today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Christmas Came

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays and not in the peace on earth good will to men kind of way but in a I love decorating Christmas trees and especially flashing lights kind of way.  As I have grown older I certainly appreciate the peace on earth aspect more and more but certainly as a child it was flashing lights.

I have been seriously ill for the past three years and as a consequence the past three Christmas's I have been more focused on finding treatments for my illness than the holiday itself.  I had been looking for a treatment to the exclusion of almost everything else, even the joy of flashing lights on a Christmas tree!  This year now that I have exhausted all possible treatments I have begun a search for joy.  I will admit the search for joy is a mostly selfish search my wife will also benefit.

My wife no longer takes me experiencing joy for granted and when she sees joy in my eyes she seems to wake from a deep slumber.  It is like she is a child on Christmas morning and her eyes light up with the joy when she can see me getting finding the joy that is still to be found in life.  Bearing all this in mind it was time to remember and experience the joy of decorating a Christmas tree.

This realization came pretty late in the holiday season but not so late that we had no options.  We have a couple of artificial Christmas trees in storage and all of decorations for the most part are with them.  The trees are reachable but not without a great deal of time and effort.  I thought the great deal of time and effort might not let us fully experience the joy and that being the case I found a three foot tall white Christmas tree on clearance.  I added one string of red lights and some golf ball sized red and white ornaments at a reasonable price and a tree became decorated in out front room.

The tree, the lights and the ornaments were inexpensive and it was up and decorated within a half an hour.  You the reader may be asking yourself why I am talking about this on January 13th as opposed to before Christmas?  The reason is a lot of the time this blog affords me a place to vent and I think that serves a valuable service to me and I think to other people in the same situation, that being said looking back over my blog posts I find that I do not share the joy as often as I should and right now I am still looking at a little white Christmas tree and that gives me joy.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An apology and my mother is sicker than I am

First an apology, I have excuses but they are lame.  I have missed three weeks in a row of blog posts.  Whatever has been going on in the past I have always managed to put up a blog post for over a year.  Now admittedly some of those blog posts were really shitty but that really just makes it worse, I have not exactly set a high bar for myself.  A couple of crappy paragraphs about a couple of crappy days that is all that was needed.  I know it is sad I broke my streak but alas the new year is a time for resolutions, new beginning, and beginning again what we already began.  Now that the apology is out of the way on to the visit from my mother and why it cheered me up and made me sad.

First fact my mother is now in her seventies and has not been able to drive a car for a while; even greater than that she is getting sick enough that she can no longer be a passenger in long car rides and not in a can not stand being in the car with you kind of way but the I can no longer handle the pain for all the usual old person kind of reasons way.  Second fact is I am moving for my health not in the euphemistic way like an ex-wife wants to kill we kind of way but in the literal I could have more oxygen in my blood at sea level than living on a mountain kind of way.  Those two facts came together so when my mother called to say she did not want to make the trip up after Christmas she had planned I told her this might be the last time she would ever see me in person; this was not in a trying to lay a guilt trip on my mother kind of way but in a factual kind of this is the way it is kind of way.

I did convince my mother to make one last trip to see her prodigal son before the demise of one or both of us.  What I had not realized in the absence since her last visit in the race down the sick road to see who dies first my mother has passed me.  If my mother does not see a doctor soon she might be taking the checkered flag on the race to death, I do not think she has many laps left in her even if she does see a doctor.  So when I say my mother is dying it is not in that Waiting for Godot tree of life behind us way but in the real palpable not long for this world kind of way.

Mother has never taken good care of herself.  In her mid to late thirties a hernia was diagnosed above her belly button.  It was small and they said she should get that taken care of sometime in the near future with a quick corrective surgery to close the hernia.  Fast forward about eight to ten years and my mother is literally pushing her intestine back through the whole in her abdominal wall.  As a child I thought this was a completely normal and acceptable home remedy.  It turns out it is not and after some not emergency but definitely urgent surgery my mother had a quite extensive operation to close her hernia.  There was large piece of mesh that was installed in a lengthy operation because her hernia had grown so large.

Another one of my favorite memories is that my mothers menstrual cycle kept getting longer, don't worry I will make this one much quicker so read on if you are brave.  By the time my mother was in her late forties or early fifties she was menstruating the majority of the month and at one point passed out from the loss of blood.  She had problems with menstruation for about ten years as I recall and I do not know the details other than she had another urgent surgery to remove her uterus.  I say these things to let you know my mother avoids taking care of her medical issues until it is urgent and if she had her wish she would not deal with them at all with one important caveat, she loves over the counter pills and will abuse those like nobodies business and I wish it was not my business.

That was a lot of build up and here is the payoff.  She is sick, so sick I am having trouble finding any humor in it.  It is obvious that she has congestive heart failure, swollen legs, water blisters, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle weakness and the list goes on and on.  I am not a doctor and I could be wrong but it is obvious something is seriously wrong even if it is not heart failure.  If it is congestive heart failure it is so sad that she will not see a doctor.  There are some easy things that could be done to help improve the quality and quantity of her life.

Since I have run out of options for treating sarcoidosis I have become focused on quality of life.  Part of why I am moving is just that to improve the quality of my life.  Even if the only benefit is that I can get rid of and delay the further need for supplemental oxygen that will be enough.  I have digressed to talking about myself which admitted is my favorite topic but back to my mother.  At the end of my mothers visit I told her I thought she had congestive heart failure and that I know that sounds scary but you can live with it for years and if she would get some treatment it would really improve the quality of her life.  I also told my mother that this is the first time it was obvious to me that she was much sicker that I am.  I may not have mentioned this in the past but my mother does like to compete in the who is the sickest contest and my quick forfeit and acknowledgement that she is the clear winner in the sick off did take her a back.

I have not had the best relationship with my mother over the years and I think any objective observer would say my mother was not a good parent but even with that being said she is my mother.  I have come to a point in my life where I can say I love my mother and I would like her suffering to be minimized as much as possible, hopefully to the point where she could enjoy what is left of her life.  It was good to see her and I am glad she cared enough to visit me but I am sad to see her so sick.  The roles have been reversed and I did feel like a parent and I also felt that my mother was going to ignore my advice.  No sarcasm intended I hope I am well enough to travel to her funeral.