Wednesday, January 11, 2012

People-Pleaser In Pain

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.


30 comments:

  1. I don't know if you were aiming to make us laugh, but I found this very funny.

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  2. Oh, yes. It is meant to be funny... every time they bring out that pain chart I start to giggle. I don't think that is the intended reaction to a pain chart, and the nurses just don't know WHAT to do with me... :)

    -Ellie

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  3. this is funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. Totally know what you mean though on the people pleasing side.

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  4. hilarious.

    I <3 Spencer too. I thought I was the only one.

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  5. Your pain descriptions are much more accurate than the faces. What IS up with the round vs. oval anyway?

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  6. They don't like me for the same reason. I just got a tattoo (my 3rd one) and the outline made me throw up. But I've been having horrid cramps since I was 14 during my period. You know, double over want to stay home under the bed cramps, but you get up and go about your day anyway because you have to.

    @Robin - No, I crush pretty hard on Spencer. I'm just sad Monkey doesn't watch it much anymore.

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  7. Ellie you've just written my life for the past 2 years...I don't know how much bloody pain I'm in because I have short term memory issues and can't remember what yesterday feels like.

    Duhhh

    And I love when the female staff says something like does it hurt as much as giving birth??

    Umm no I wasn't trying to mother 2 children, be a wife, converse with people in that moment and I had DRUGS with my csection

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  8. Very funny - I can relate - for me, I knew I was truly in pain when I stopped caring about whether my oncologist liked me and trying to be a "good" patient... but by then, I was just about finished with treatment...at that point, I was pretty much without any dignity. Hey, since you are one crafty mother, you should make your own pain chart... maybe a collage. You could have the Mona Lisa, the Statue of Liberty, Munch's "the Scream" painting etc. It could definitely bring some artistic value into the process... yes... maybe everyone in the infusion center could work on making pain chart collages during those long hours of sitting. Wouldn't it help pass the time better than watching "The Price is Right" on the wall mounted TV?

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  9. Next time they show you the pained faces you should just make a pained face and tell them to tell YOU which one it is!

    Life is rich with irony, even within the great difficulties. Glad you aren't missing the opportunities to laugh. They are around every corner.

    Hope this is a good day for you, Ellie.

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  10. This was very funny. YOu could make a new scale with things like "shin kick", "fingers slammed in door", "tongue bite."

    I'm not sure how useful pain scales are. My brother in law had an exploding apendix in him and was like "oh, it's a 3."

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  11. I'm so glad you still have your sense of humour. I hope that stays with you through this whole process. Hugs!

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  12. I love Steve's idea of making your own chart...that'll make the nurse's head spin!

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  13. Oh my gosh-- I have felt the exact same way. My pain is relative! I've started to liken the ten to natural childbirth, and a four to cramping. A six is stubbing my toe. But that's only for me, right? Once they asked my younger son how much pain he was in after falling and hurting himself. He told them eight and they proceeded to FREAK. OUT. I told him that I thought he should reconsider-- that it wasn't likely that serious. He told me that any pain to him is serious!

    My mother-in-law-- who is an oncology nurse-- told me it's all about what an individual can bear. If you are in a place where you cannot bear it anymore, you need to say that-- because help is available. If you have an idea of how it might be managed (even if it's something you cannot do right now- just as an example) that can also help. So, you might say-- it would feel better if it was massaged, or it would feel better if I could take Advil. That usually gives them a better idea!

    Or it might irritate the nurse even more. Which could also be funny...

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  14. Love this, Ellie!
    Also love Steve's idea of the collage with the Mona Lisa, "Scream," etc.!

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  15. I can't stand those pain questions. I was in pain management for a year before my spinal fusion surgery and got so annoyed with the pain scale. It was such a relief when I finally met a doctor that asked me, How has the pain affected your life?

    I love your attitude! Keep it up!

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  16. Oh Ellie, it just feels good to laugh sometimes, doesn't it?

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  17. Oh my you gave me a giggle!

    You might get a kick out of this ;) http://api.ning.com/files/MK*vrU5pP1QzAylq*esczHRxM-cunPAv3HCBWDdlwgZTl3sICdOj24aRTTDCdHrd*7JyR8GAMPiPBZuRbFPmmtbHTmGWmIPC/painchart.jpg

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  18. OMgoodness!!!!!!!!!! Ellie you are such a freaking HOOT even in the throws of cancer and chemo and radiation. I laughed my ARSE off at this post. Girl...you are going to have a book deal by the end of this with your humor and writing talent. Not that it is the intent of this journey at all.

    I remember being at the urgent care on Christmas eve and they pulled out the top chart and asked our 2 year old son how he felt. He pushed out his lower lip and pointed to the saddest face possible. Then he immediately wanted a lollipop.

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  19. I see you are feeling better today, Ellie. And so am I after I got up off the floor from laughing so hard. Thank you!

    But please keep irritating the nurse, that way she will know you are still alive and kicking. On the other hand, take anything that they can give you to help. In this situation there is no such thing as being a wimp or a good patient, those words are not part of the vocabulary for radiation, I know only too well.

    Take whatever they are willing to give you to feel better, well no wine, but otherwise ...
    I will send some other information via email.

    Hug and laughs,

    Mike L

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  20. Amy, I just love that chart! That makes so much more sense than those stupic round and oval ones. I am forwarding that to some frinds...

    Ellie, keep that sense of humour. Worth more than anything, that is. Hugs to you!

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  21. I have always felt the same way.

    Here's the source of the alternative pain chart Amy mentions above==very funny.:
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/02/boyfriend-doesnt-have-ebola-probably.html

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  22. Ellie, my love, you just brightened my day with your sense of humor amongst all you're going through. It's amazing how you still give so much.

    I LOVE Steve's idea for a pain collage of fine art. Just.FANTASTIC!

    On a serious note, I know you will tell them when you need help with your pain. If you are hurting, let them help.

    If it helps at all, whenever I've been shown the pain chart, I always dramatize it up a notch. What can I say? I'm an alcoholic. : D Love to you! xoxo

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  23. You're amazing. Thank you for your sense of humor.
    Lee Ann

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  24. Love it! I tend to experience that full range of facial expression/emotions while reading some of your posts!! Sad to happy to worry to laughing...you do have an amazing gift!

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  25. You are one very special lady! I do the exact same thing too. What Jen said. We experience all these faces when you write like this. You do have, and ARE, an amazing gift.

    Jeannie

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  26. I love it Ellie! You're too funny. I can totally relate to the people pleasing! Hope they can do something for your pain. A swift kick in the shin doesn't tickle!

    xo
    Libby

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  27. Just leaving you a word of support! Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with us. Hang in there!

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  28. I am literally,laughing out loud. I swear, I've had that same conversation, more than once.

    Keep them guessing, Ellie - glad you are seeing the humor in all of this.

    Love to you...

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  29. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/02/boyfriend-doesnt-have-ebola-probably.html

    ellie...check it out...it might help!!! hilarious!! you are too funny!! glad you have the energy to find the humor in it all.
    i think you know i'm a nurse...er for years...what's really funny is the pain scale on non-english speakers!!! :)
    love from the coast!!! valary

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  30. I chuckled. So funny. I, too, would rather use the 'shin kicks' than those silly faces. However, I have also read your next post. Where I shed a tear. I suspect you are now at the 'slamming finger in the car door' stage. You are in my thoughts and my prayers, Ellie. I hope we will soon see only smiley faces. Hugs.

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