It greets you at the most inopportune moments. It comes in silence – this uninvited guest – and causes utter exhaustion of body and mind. For those who live with it, the challenge is great. For those who don’t, explaining its impact is near impossible.
This familiar adversary which invades many people’s daily life is none other than chronic pain. About five years ago, I became personally acquainted with this demon. In the beginning, I naively thought I could ignore it. When that didn’t work, I thought I could conquer it. I’ve learned that none of these strategies work. Thanks to the example of my courageous mom Joan, the only way to deal with chronic pain is to rise above it.
As I enter a new stage in my journey toward healing for my back (I hope), I found myself thinking a lot about how my mom handled pain during her battle with stage 4 cancer. Like many people who experience chronic pain, my mom’s pain was caused by an unexpected illness. This illness required painful treatments on a regular basis. In addition to the pain caused by these treatments, she experienced pain caused by the cancer itself. At one point during the end of her life, the cancer tumors had even grown out from under her arm, which was extremely painful.
But I don’t remember my mom complaining, feeling sorry for herself or wallowing in her plight. I do remember her giving thanks to God for her daily blessings, fixing herself up to look beautiful each day and resting when needed. Mom prided herself on looking and being her best, especially when she didn’t feel well. I believe her prayer life filled her with God’s grace, which allowed her to act with courage and hope – even in the midst of physical and emotional pain.
This has been an extremely important example for me lately. As the pain from multiple back surgeries and others complications has gotten worse over the years, I have often thought of my mom and her heroic example. I would never compare myself to mom in terms of courage – I have a long way to go – but her example gives me something to strive toward. Mom always knew that God had her in the palm of His hand. She always taught me that pain and suffering lead us closer to Him, the source of all that is good in the world. I have to admit that she was right. Despite the difficult days and many things that are not in my control right now, I do know that God has a plan for my life.
Perhaps mom inspired me to write this evening’s blog post. If you are suffering from physical or emotional pain, be good to yourself. You are not alone. We all struggle at some point in our lives but God does not leave us to care for ourselves. If we ask, He gives us exactly what we need for each step in our journey. Often times it is not what we think we need, but that is the moment when we need to trust in Him. I was privileged to watch my beloved mother walk the path of pain and suffering with faith, hope and courage, as she battled the cowardly disease of cancer. She rose above the pain and walked toward the light of God each day. She set an example for all of us to follow.