I have two weekly consultations with the oncology and radiation team. They always start by asking me about pain. How much I'm in, how often, etc.
I don't know how to answer this question. And it brings out all my people pleasing tendencies.
"Well, how much pain should I be in?" I'll ask.
The nurse just raises her eyebrows at me, as if to say "are we really going to go through this charade again?"
I mean, something I consider major pain may be no great shakes to someone else. I don't want to come across like a wimp, for crying out loud. But I don't want to answer too high, because I did that once and everyone started running around aflutter and calling in more specialists to stare down my throat. I didn't like that, so I want to answer in such a way that lets them know I am in pain, but I just don't know how much without knowing how other people at this stage in treatment answer the question.
That's the way us people-pleasers roll.
So they bring out the chart. You know - this one, with the faces:
I don't know what that bottom row is all about. Maybe people with oval shaped faces experience pain differently than us round-faced folks.
I stare and stare at the chart, wanting so badly to pick the right answer.
But seriously? I can experience all those emotions in like five minutes when I'm PMSing. And that fourth round face from the left? That's how I look when I lose my car keys (which is an experience that can be quite painful, when you think about it). Number three round face from the left is how I look when I'm day dreaming about Spencer from iCarly. Or chocolate.
Number eight of the oval faces is how I look when I stub my toe. And Number Ten Oval-Face is how I look when my kid asks me his one-millionth question in five minutes.
The chart is no help to me, so I give comparatives, which frustrates the nurses to no end.
"Well, today it hurts less than slamming my finger in the car door, but more than a swift kick to the shins. Can you write that down?"
She sighs, and writes something down, but I think it has more to do with my mental health than any pain scale.
Someday I'd really like to get a peek at the notes in those charts.
"So," she sighs, "is it accurate to say you are in some pain, that it is increasing week to week, but that it's manageable right now?"
"Ummmm. Sure." I answer, noncommittally.
"How about this," she says. "When the pain starts keeping you up at night, or is preventing you from eating food, will you let us know?"
"Oh, I haven't been able to eat food without pain for a while now, " I say. "And sometimes I am up at night from pain, now that you mention it."
She rolls her eyes again, sighs, and leaves to get the doctor.
"But really - it's not that bad!" I shout after her, wanting her to be proud of me, or like me, or something.