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Face Of Pain - Anna's Story

Hi, my name is Anna.  I am the mother of three boys.  I am a wife who tries her best, most of the time.  I am a special education teacher, who loves her job.  I am a friend.  I am a daughter, sister, and an aunt.  On top of all these things, I am a person living with chronic pain, and this is my story.

I grew up in Palisade Park NJ.  We moved “down the shore” when I was in middle school.  Being the oldest of five children, there was always a lot of activity at home.  There was always family, love, laughter and support.  I don’t know what I would have done without my family’s support during some of the more trying times in my life, and there have been a few.

I married in 1988.  There are a few good things that came from this marriage.  My two oldest boys are two of them.  The other is the ability to stand up for myself.  During this time, I finished college; my last semester starting a week after my oldest son was born.  I told my husband it was time for him to leave in 1997.

The next few years were interesting. My boys were 7 and 9 years old.   I was now a single mom with a house to support on her own.  I painted rooms, hung wallpaper, learned to make small repairs, figured out how to bleed the heater pipes, built a Koi pond, mowed the grass, and anything else that had to be done.  We did homework, played board games, watched movies, and laughed a lot.

I never shied away from adventure.  The three of us would pack up our camping stuff, jump in the car, and go.  We would visit State Parks or National Parks.  One of my oldest friends was also a single mom; she had four to bring along.  What a sight we must have been!  Rumpled from driving all night, we’d pull up to a rest area or diner with six kids in tow.  We never had a ton of money, but we had fun.

My oldest son started Taekwon Do just before he turned four, in late 1992.  I began to take class not long after.  This gave me the opportunity to help him if he needed it, and to get some exercise.  Well, I was hooked.  I loved training and looked forward to each class.  My son never did need any help.  He is now a third degree black belt who competes internationally.  His brother started when he was five.  He is a second degree black belt, and also competes worldwide.  And of course, years later, their little brother takes class too.  

The summer of 2000 I married the love of my life.  Joe has been a constant source of strength, love and support from the beginning.  He is a calming force to my chaos.  I continued to do many of the things I’ve always enjoyed, camping, biking, and Taekwon Do.  I was constantly buzzing around, doing something.

 

The following year, our youngest son was born.  That child hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down yet.  He has a lot of his father in him.  He loves to figure out how things work.  He is a caring and kind, just like his dad.  We have a good life.  Nothing fancy, but full of the things families should have.  We spend time together, playing games, reading stories, going for bike rides, doing stuff. 

The beginning of my ‘new life’ started in September 2006.  A new school year had just started.  I was excited and full of plans.  Each new year brought new children and new challenges.  This one was no exception.  You see, I’ve taught autistic children for a very long time.  A new school year means adjusting to new people, new routines and sometimes new rules.  Autistic children thrive on sameness.  So, new situations can be difficult.  Two weeks into the school year of 2006 I injured my back.  Life has changed. 

I thought I must have “pulled something”.  I filed the necessary report.  This was a Friday.  On Monday, I could barely move.  I went to school and was immediately sent to the doctor. I was then sent to an orthopedic surgeon.  .  I had severely herniated the disc between L5 and S1.  I went for an MRI, physical therapy and epidural steroid injections.  None of this did much for the pain.  In February 2007 I had my first surgery (ever, outside a c-section), a Microdiskectomy/ Laminectomy.  This was great!  I felt wonderful and was back to work three weeks after surgery. 

Unfortunately this wouldn’t last.  By, March of the following year, an MRI showed that the disc space collapsed.  I was bone on bone, and in pain.   My surgeon ordered a discogram to help provide a road map for the next surgery.  In May 2008 I had an Anterior/posterior lumbar interbody fusion with anterior plate, interbody device and instrumentation (rods & screws).  This was followed by several weeks’ recovery at home, then months of physical therapy.

All this time, the pain in my lower back and legs has remained with me.  There have been good days and bad days.  I spent many afternoons laying on ice or heating pad to relieve the worst of it.  But still, there was little that helped.  In February 2009 I was referred to a pain management doctor.  We have an agreement for pain medications.  He spent a lot of time listening and trying to find a way to alleviate some of the pain.  Most recently I have had a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) installed.  It is an electronic device, which helps nerve pain.  Although I only had the SCS for a couple of weeks I have high hopes.  With my new device I am hoping to be able to do some things I haven’t been able to do in a few years.  I’m realistic.  My hopes are to go on short hikes, take a drive without causing a flare in pain, be able to sit through my son’s Lacrosse games, and maybe to forget about pain for a while each week.  Another thing I’d like to do is go back to work.  I miss the children, my friends and the routine.

There has been some good in all of this.  I no longer sweat the small stuff (most of the time).  And, I have had a chance to slow down and appreciate the people in my life.