Pain Awareness Month

Note: I posted this last night and for some reason it disappeared. So, sorry to all of you who are getting double notified of this post.

I haven’t been in a blogging mood the past couple of weeks. There are so many things that I desperately want to say but when I ready myself to write them down nothing comes out the way that I feel it or want it to.

Anyways, what I do want to write about is the fact that September is “pain awareness month” and I can’t not acknowledge it. It’s a sad thing to dwell on, really – the reality of just how many lives are being severely altered and often ruined by chronic pain. Why is this becoming such an epidemic? And more importantly, what can we do to change that? Ignoring the fact that this cause is extremely personal to me – as someone who suffers from chronic pain herself – I think that we owe it to each other as human beings to find out why our friends, parents, grandparents and children are being affected by this debilitating condition in such large numbers.

For those of you who might not know or remember I was asked to travel cross-country to speak at Canada’s first ever Pain Summit in Ottawa this past April. The experience was absolutely terrifying and I spent a lot of the time leading up to it cursing myself for getting myself into that situation. But I did it because it was important and I felt an obligation to myself and to everyone and anyone in a similar situation to open eyes to the reality of chronic pain. The audience of politicians, medical professionals, business stakeholders and policy makers needed to hear the account of a young person living in 24/7, often excruciating pain, and that’s what I was there for. My speech was intended to steer away from medical terms and hard facts and instead show you the individual behind the curtain and the devastating impact the condition of chronic pain has on the lives of those involved. I spoke candidly about the humiliating doctor appointments, the ignorant opinions of the many who believe that a young person cannot suffer from chronic pain and – I think most importantly – those moments that my heart broke to realize that I was never getting better and that pain would be my constant companion for the rest of my young life. I was open, honest and unavoidably vulnerable and I think that it made an impact on my listeners.

Chronic pain is often referred to as the “invisible illness” by those who suffer with it. The impression that someone gets by looking at you and not seeing any physical disability or injury is too often the only one that seems to really stick. I don’t look sick or injured and so everyone assumes that I am a healthy person who’s not in any pain whatsoever and who certainly is not suffering to the extent that those who know me well see that I am. Many of us also do our best to contain our discomfort, either because of previous negative experiences, being uncomfortable with the vulnerability that showing pain invokes or whatever the reason may be. One of the reasons that I try to hide my pain is because I fear others will think that I’m being melodramatic or just trying to get attention. Those fears have shaped my extreme dislike of revealing my pain to really anyone apart from my mother. And with her a big part of it is because I know that she understands exactly what it feels like and would be the last to judge me. 

The aim of the Canadian Pain Summit was to help invoke a national pain strategy – similar to one that was recently put into action in Australia – in Canada. What that means is this: “The National Pain Strategy is a call to action developed by clinicians, researchers, stakeholder groups and people living with pain to address the social, economic and personal impact of pain on Canadians. To date, over 4,000 Canadians and more than 100 organizations have shown their support for a National Pain Strategy. The Strategy identifies four key target areas for change, including: awareness and education, access, research and ongoing monitoring. The Strategy has been reviewed and contributed by various stakeholders such as Health Canada, The Canadian Medical Association, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the Arthritis Alliance and The Canadian Association of Retired Persons to address the gaps that exist in pain management and to minimize its burden on Canadians living with pain, their families and society.” –

Needless to say; were the pain strategy put into place it would make a huge positive impact on all of us who are currently living in chronic pain and those who will be in the future. It’s an important objective, one that I sincerely hope succeeds, not only for my sake but for the sake of many of my loved ones and the 1 in 5 Canadians suffering with chronic pain. To do your part and make a difference click the picture below to endorse the pain strategy. It’s as easy as filling out 5 fields of information (name, email etc). Also, if you’d like to make a donation towards the national pain strategy for Canada click the “make a donation” picture/link below (donations handled by the Canadian Pain Foundation).

We have a long way to go yet, in regards to raising awareness about chronic pain. But I do believe that we’re on the right path and that we’re making progress. I will spend my life speaking out about it in any way that circumstance allows me to and hoping that in some small way I’m making a difference. Luckily, I’m joined by handfuls of amazing, brave bloggers who are writing out their lives and experiences with chronic pain for the world to see. Having access to their stories will make an impact on those who take the time to read them. Hopefully, in the end, it will change their views on just who the people being affected by this condition truly are.

A few of the pictures from my Ottawa trip.

I can’t believe it’s already been two months since the Canadian pain summit! I said I’d post the photos I took soon but I just kept postponing hooking my camera up and getting them onto the computer. But, here’s a few that I like, I’m still going through the rest, but they will be up.

This is the awesome view of Gatineau Quebec along the walk around the parliament buildings.

These are the provincial flags lined up on the stage next to where I gave my speech on living with pain as a teenager.

This is just a glimpse of one of the beautiful (and huge!) parliament buildings. I love the old architecture! It’s like taking a trip to Europe without leaving the country!

Off on an Adventure

Not that I’ve been posting much lately (sorry, nothing remotely interesting has been going on in my realm of the world), but just wanted to say that we’re (me & mom) off to Ottawa. Well, technically we’re off to PG for the night before catching our insanely early flight to the big O. It’s supposed to be rainy, miserable picture taking weather but I’m seriously hoping I can get a decent shot of something. I’m really excited for the pain summit and to come back here and let you know some of the things that I’ve seen and learnt there.

I’m also super nervous about my speech. But these things are never as scary as you think they’re going to be…right? I’ll post it on here when we get back. So far everyone’s been really supportive. And, I’m speaking as a youth living in pain, so it’s not like they’re expecting an Obama-worthy speech. But it’s not the words I’m worried about, I feel really confident about what I’ve written. It’s the delivery that really freaks me out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to picture the audience naked in the past few days. A terrible suggestion, I might add. Instead I’m going to do one better and not wear my glasses. Then I won’t be able to see the audience, perfect.  

In typical me fashion, I haven’t slept yet today. But oh well, I suppose there will be time for that when we get to the hotel this afternoon, maybe even during the car ride, if I’m lucky. Our schedule is super packed during the short three day trip. I’m worried about how my body’s going to take it; sitting in the car, sitting on the plane, layovers, presentations. Yikes. I hope the pain doesn’t dampen the experience. 

I get so easily overwhelmed now, half of me wants it to be over already. But I know this is a once in a lifetime, amazing trip/opportunity and that it’ll be worth every minute of it. Plus, I get to speak out about something that’s had a huge impact on my life, and hopefully be a part of making the lives of other people in pain a little better.

So, deep breaths and wish me luck!

What did I get myself into this time?

I once read that a very important part of becoming a writer, is to face your fears of public speaking. So, with that in mind, I said yes today when an organizer of the Canadian Pain Summit asked me to give a speech to the hundreds of attendees.

Gulp. I haven’t done anything in the form of public speaking since a project I did in grade 7, and that was to a class of 20 or so children. Plus, back then I didn’t suffer from anxiety like I do now. Double gulp.

As daunting as this is for me, I want to get my story out there and tell others what it’s been like being a teenager, growing up in constant pain. I also want to support the attempt to invoke a national pain strategy for Canada in any way that I can. And finally, I’m trying to force myself to step outside of my comfort zone, whenever the opportunity arises.

So, for better or worse, I’ve committed to doing this. Wish me luck! I’ll definitely be telling you how it goes.