I know that I said I’d write about my experience at the pain summit in Ottawa yesterday but I lied. I ended up having a rough day and going to bed super early, so, here I am, and I’ll write about it now.
I’m splitting this post into two parts because I have a lot to say that’s important and I know that sometimes when a post is too long interest wanes. Click here for part II
First thing’s first though, if you haven’t done so already, click this link to endorse a national pain strategy in Canada. Do it, do it, do it. You’re going to be hearing that a lot from me for the next while, and that’s because my future and the futures of many people I love are directly tied to the success of the pain strategy. So, dare I say it again, do it.
For those of you who don’t know, the goal of the pain summit was to help invoke a national pain strategy in Canada. To learn more about what that is, and what it would achieve click this link. Having a national pain strategy in Canada is a huge deal. As someone living in pain everyday I can honestly say that I didn’t even know how big of a deal it truly was and how many people it would positively impact until I came out of the summit. It would mean far better access to proper pain management for all Canadians – babies, children, war veterans, the elderly, fathers, mothers, on and on – suffering with chronic pain (1 in 5, equaling approx 6 million).
The travel to Ottawa was long and nearly unbearable. There was absolutely no room for any movement on the plane (especially for someone as tall as me), and I had to sit in pretty much one position from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. By the time we arrived in Ottawa my right hand was covered in self inflicted blisters – anything to distract myself from the horrible pain in my body and I was seriously wondering what I had gotten myself into. The way you think things will be, and the way they actually feel when you’re in pain, are entirely different. I had delusional visions of sitting through the entire pain summit, – the day after the long travel to Ottawa – and then walking 20 minutes to a museum, spending a couple of hours there, and walking 20 minutes back to our hotel. It’s safe to say that a couple of hours into the trip I began to realize how ridiculous that notion had been. Things are never as wonderful as you think they’ll be when you’re in pain – that’s just the way it is. I was missing home straight away and wishing I had never left in the first place, I was also having anxiety attacks about doing my speech in the morning (don’t worry this gets WAY better and I’m not being sarcastic). You just wish for the comforts of home and your own bed and not having any commitments – another luxury of living in pain (by the way I will be saying the P word a lot before I’m done this post).
Anyways, we (me and mom) briefly attended the welcome reception and got to meet some of the fantastic members of the Canadian Pain Coalition and Canadian Pain Society that I had been corresponding with via email the past few months, as well as some other wonderful people – some also living with chronic pain. Everyone was very understanding about us leaving so quickly to go back to our room, they knew what a long day we’d had and that we needed a break.
The morning of the summit I was a nervous wreck. When I walked into the ballroom and seen all of the people – delegates, doctors, scientists – that would be watching me and listening to my speech, I was literally ready to burst into tears, and quite angry at myself for getting myself into that situation. There were a few things keeping me from running away and quitting; first, I knew how important it was for me to tell my story, especially the bad parts of it, because people need to know what millions of Canadians are facing. Second, I wanted to force myself out of the box that I crawled into when the pain started. I’ve spent so much time there because it’s easier, that I’ve started to forget that there’s a big wide world out there, whether I’m in pain or not.
The presentations and speeches that I heard during the summit were phenomenal. They were also hard to listen to, only because of the fact that it’s like hearing your same sad story echoed by so many other people. The sheer similarities in story after story compared to my own were unbelievable. It was bittersweet – knowing that I’m far less alone than I often feel, while at the same time knowing that there’s so many others out there fighting the same hard battle. As for my own speech, the reaction I got was unbelievable, even at this moment I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. Because I was so nervous I sort of went on autopilot during my speech, when it was over I couldn’t even recall saying a huge chunk of it. But the first thing that I really registered was the fact that everyone in the room was standing – I received the first and only standing ovation of the entire summit. I was amazed, and so surprised and in the end so proud of myself, not only for the step I took for myself and other people suffering with chronic pain but for the fact that I proved to myself that I could do it, and that I could step so far out of my comfort zone.
I’ll post the rest of the summit’s events tomorrow. The best is yet to come! & pictures of the beautiful parliament buildings and our unbelievable hotel will be up as soon as I’ve had a chance to go through them.