Chronic Pain: Just Smile Through It

My breast cancer journey has literally ripped apart my body, leaving me with missing parts, and chronic pain.

Last week my husband posted on his Facebook wall: “You see her always smiling in her photos. Because she will never let you know how much pain she really is in.” This is chronic pain.

Chronic Pain Just Smile LJSMithEvery morning when my son Gideon and I walk to school we take a selfie, and of course we always smile. I always try to stay positive, and look my best. I do not leave the house without doing my hair, putting on some makeup, and some decent clothes. Since I work in the promotional industry and get paid to be the face of many brands, part of my job is to smile and be happy all day no matter how I feel, emotionally or physically, no matter how tamoxifen in making me feel. It is like I am always playing a part, not that I am always sad, or that I hate what I do but I am a playing role. I actually think this job helps me stay positive, but some days are harder than others.

Chronic Pain Just SmileMy breast cancer journey has literally ripped apart my body, leaving me with missing parts, and chronic pain. I have been able to deal with it but lately I developed this new pain in my left wrist and hand; a pain that has been becoming increasingly unbearable. I have a ganglion cyst on my left wrist that I had long before my cancer so I just assumed it was getting aggravated by my lymphedema and my tamoxifen. My hand and wrist literally look angry, veins popping, palm swollen. At my last visit to my oncologist, he reminded me that my plastic surgeon is also a hand specialist and he was with me through all the complication with my surgeries so there is no one better to help me than him. I made an appointment right away and he just thought my cyst was causing a little pain and said we would see about getting it removed. Two months later, the pain was so bad I knew it was more than just my cyst so I called again to follow up and made another appointment.

Last weekend I was at work promoting a new sneaker trying to pretend that my wrist didn’t feel like it had a knife stabbing it, when both my hands went completely numb. I could not feel a thing. I had to keep smiling while inside I was freaking out. I tried to nonchalantly shake my hands and fingers in hopes to bring some feeling back into them but they stayed numb, probably from being in air conditioning for a few hours. As soon as I was done I Googled “numbness in hands, tamoxifen” and just as I suspected it came up as a common side effect. As I rode home in the bus, trying to rub my hands together in the freezing bus, I said to myself, “Just hold it together till you get home, then you can cry.” For the first time in a very long, very hot summer I could not wait to get outside in the heat.” I even got off the bus a stop early so I could warm my hands. It wasn’t until I lay down in bed that I let it all out and cried while rubbing some liniment on my wrist and hand.

Chronic Pain Just Smile LethalOn Tuesday I spent the day using my throbbing hand to set up a giant convention and I finally got to see my favorite doctor on Wednesday. He said it was most likely arthritis, I thought “I am officially old!” but also could not help but wonder if the tamoxifen, coupled with my lymphedema brought it on. After all, I do not have this pain on my right side, it is only present on the left, the problem child of my body. He did agree that the numbness was from the tamoxifen and after he tested my thumb joint and he said it looked positive for arthritis and sent me off to get x-rays so we could determine the severity and how we will treat it. My options will be anti-inflammatory medicine, a splint, injections, or surgery. I have already looked up homeopathic options as well and made myself a batch of turmeric ginger tea last night which was actually delicious once I added coconut milk and stevia.

While I am not thrilled to have arthritis I am relieved to know what it is. When I told my husband the news, he told me he was scared it was cancer. For some reason I am one of the few survivors I know that never worries about recurrence but I never think about how worried my family must be. I look forward to hearing the results of my x-rays, good or bad so we can move forward. I will try my best to do what I can to treat it and keep smiling.