This is part II of my Canadian pain summit experience. Click here for part I.
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.
After I finished my speech at the summit I was immediately asked to do an on camera interview, and on the way was stopped every few steps by summit attendees, professionals, saying thank you, telling me I’d done well, giving me their business cards and asking me to contact them. I was asked by Warriors of Pain to possibly be a spokesperson for their foundation and was given an autographed book by another writer – a woman also suffering from chronic pain. I felt like a celebrity for a few moments! I was told by two separate delegates that my words were what decided their support for the pain strategy for them. If it sounds like I’m gloating, it’s because I am!
I was also honored to be able to meet Dr. Allen Finley a pediatric anesthesiologist who has worked for 20 years in pain research and management. Now here is the kind of doctor that Canada needs to have in every city, someone who knows and cares about his patient’s pain. He had also done a presentation about the prevalence of pain in pediatrics, after which he came up and asked me what I thought about the speech because I am the type of person he was speaking for and that my opinion was the most important one to him. His presentation really hit home for me, he even said at one point “the teenager in pain, who no one believes”, and I had been there. I had been told that it was in my head by my pediatrician, that I was making it up, trying to get out of school. He’s seen the same thing too many times. He’s an amazing health professional, if I had known him 5 years ago my story may have been quite different. His speech deeply affected my mom too. Especially during the points where he discussed the deep pain a parent experiences when their child is suffering and there’s nothing they can do to fix it. For me though, just having the relationship that I do with my mom and having her there for me the way she is, is more than I could hope for. And whether it cures the pain or not, it makes a huge difference in my life to have that constant support.
I met too many amazingly kind, supportive people to list here. People that will always hold a place in my heart, people who’ve walked the same long road of chronic pain that I have, people who work tirelessly to improve our lives. Not one person I encountered during the summit showed me anything less than pure kindness and compassion. Something, as someone living in the stigma of chronic pain, I don’t normally experience.
There was a running theme presented at the summit, one echoed by many of the presentations we saw: “Access to pain management without discrimination is a fundamental human right“. One doctor who spoke (who I also very much liked) suggested that failing to provide, or denying a patient in pain, proper pain management was equivalent to criminal negligence, and technically should be able to be tried in court. Now, that doesn’t mean we should start bringing our doctors to court whenever we have a bad experience with them, but it does provide vision of how wrong, how inhumane it is to deny someone who’s suffering a means of relief, when possible.
After the summit concluded me and mom gathered up enough energy to walk around the outside of the parliament buildings (just a block from our hotel). I had no idea how huge the buildings were, neither did I know how completely breathtaking they are. I wanted to just sit and stare at them for hours. The detail and the work that must have been put into them, not to mention the history behind them. I took pictures (which I’ll put up soon) but they’re nothing in comparison to the real thing.
As for later that night, I can’t even explain how much I was dreading the trip home. The amount of pain I was in during the trip to Ottawa was unbearable, but this time we had been going non stop for days beforehand, not to mention an extra 4 hours being added in layover time. But, thankfully my pain medications actually did their job better than usual, for once. The trip wasn’t even a fraction as hard as I thought it would be, and I was so excited to get back to the comforts of home. But I was also sad that I couldn’t bring all of the wonderful people I met back with me. I should also mention, I don’t like flying in planes nearly as much as I thought. The trip to Ottawa I spent a good deal of time thinking this was it, we were going to crash. The trip back I felt calmer, I think if I flew more often I’d get used to it. It just feels weird, that humans have the power to get in this huge machine and fly 35,000 feet above the ground. But I will say this, the views are incredible.
All in all the summit was incredible. I learned a lot, not only from other people but from myself as well. I learned that I can do things I never thought I could, and that there is great reward in pushing yourself beyond your boundaries. The summit gave me something I often never have, hope. Hope that maybe one day people across Canada in pain, myself and those I love included, will no longer feel stigmatized by it. Because, like one doctor at the summit said: “what a cruel thing to do to someone who’s already in pain”. I have hope that one day I may be able to lead a semi normal live, and receive the proper pain management. And lastly, hope that no other young person, no other person period, has to go through what I did, while trying to get help.
I’m extremely thankful to have been able to experience the things that I did during the summit. To be reminded that there are people out there who understand and who care. And that they’re working hard to improve our lives.