A typical story of how people who suffer from chronic pain are treated by the people who have taken an oath to help us. Although this story is fiction, it is acutely true and palpable to individuals with chronic pain.
Chronic non-malignant pain:
Yes, that is what medical professionals call the name of my disease. The difference between my pain and that of a cancer patient is one small word called “non”. If the word “non” is part of my diagnosis, then it unequivocally engenders nearly all facets of my treatment. When we obliterate the word, “non”, we are describing a person who has cancer. We as a society do everything we can do to make this person’s life as pain-free as we can. We will use every available medicine to treat and relieve their pain and suffering. We as chronic pain patients agree that every person with chronic malignant pain should be treated with every available medication to stop their suffering. When a patient with chronic malignant pain has a terminal diagnosis, they have a whole group of medical professionals and volunteers who has a common goal. Their goal is to keep their patient as pain-free as humanly possible and to use all medical treatments and medications to attain their goal. I as a person with chronic non-malignant pain am treated very differently because of that small word “non”. This word tells everyone that I may meet from nurses to doctors that I have chronic pain.
I make an appointment and go to the doctor’s office to have my disease treated, as anyone with a disease would do. The first encounter with the doctor’s office is where I must complete several forms describing my disease. The whole time I am doing this I am thinking is this doctor going to treat me and stop my suffering? Or is he the same as all the other doctors who dismissed my pain. Why is it that the person I gave my completed forms to is treating me as if I had a contagious disease? The first thing she tells me is that “the doctor will not prescribe any pain medications”. I have not said a word yet and because the words chronic non-malignant pain appeared on the form, she felt it her duty to start the abuse that was to follow. I waited in the waiting room for two hours and then the nurse finally called my name.
I stood up and limped over to the door where the nurse was waiting for me. The nurse told me that she had to get some basic information like weight, height and the reason for my visit. I start to tell her and by the time I can get the words “chronic non-malignant pain” out, she interrupts me and tells me that the doctor does not prescribe any pain medication. So if that is the reason I am here I might as well not waste my time and the doctors as well. I told her that I did not make this appointment and fill out forms for thirty-minutes and wait for two hours to have her disrespect me and dismiss my disease. The nurse did not like my comments and became defensive as she showed me to the examination room.
I waited about thirty minutes for the doctor to enter the room and along with him was nurse Ratchet. I guess she felt it was her duty to tell the doctor that she had already told me that he would not prescribe any pain medications. The doctor nodded his head up and down as the nurse added her comments. The doctor asked me why I was here and I told him what was wrong with me and why my pain was chronic. He told me for himself that he seldom prescribes any kind of pain medication because he believes patients will become addicted to the drugs. I asked him if my pain was from malignant cancer would he prescribe pain medication. He answered that he would because he does not believe anyone should have to suffer from cancer. I asked him then why should people with chronic non-malignant pain have to suffer and be ignored by most of the medical community.
I ask him about his comment that he did not want his patient to become addicted and I told him that less then one-percent of chronic pain patients become addicted. He answered, “Some people become addicted and how do I know if you will not be the patient that becomes addicted”. I told him if we go by his way of thinking that means that out of 1000 patients less then 10 maybe become addicted. I then asked him if it was fare to let 990 people suffer just to make sure less then 10 would become addicted. I went back to the scenario of the cancer patient and asked the doctor why the quality of life and dying with dignity was so important in someone who is dying. However, if you are trying to live with chronic non-malignant pain then the quality of life and treatment with respect and dignity is not important to you as a doctor. I then asked the doctor “If I hear and understand you right that as long as I am not terminal then you will not treat my pain. However, if I am dying I qualify for pain treatment?” He replied, “Well yes, it is because you can not let a terminally ill patient die in pain.” I said, “Doctor why is it that you can not see your contradiction of treatments?” At this point, I have been at this doctor’s office for almost four hours and the only thing I got out of this was one more physician who refuses to treat my pain. According to him, I can come back to him when I am dying and he will treat my pain. The sad thing is he does not realize that I am.