Learning That I Don’t Have to Tolerate Pain

One of the words that could summarize my life is pain: lots and lots of really bad pain. There have been many periods–years long–during my life where I hurt essentially all of the time. Given my body’s reaction to Neurofibromatosis, I can pretty much hurt anywhere. I have dealt with all kinds of nerve pain throughout my life. My head and legs have been especially prone to pain. I am also used to post-surgery pain, having had three major, major surgeries and one minor surgery.

I have always had a very high tolerance for pain. A bad headache or migraine, for example, doesn’t (and can’t!) stop me from doing what I need to do and want to do. Various medical procedures and shots and IVs don’t bother me at all.

Recently, though, I am learning that I don’t have to deal with constant pain.

For example, I have had migraines pretty much my entire 30 years of life. I took Propranolol for these for about ten years and stopped taking it somewhere around 2001 or 2002. The headaches were better for a time, and then, I just got used to them. During the late 2000s and especially during the early 2010s, I started having really bad headaches all the time. The doctors suggested, several times, that I could start taking Propranolol again, and I kept saying, “No, it’s not that bad. I can just keep using these headache patches.” Finally, because I started having a few very minor heart problems and dizziness, I was essentially told I needed to start taking another medication in the winter of 2015. (I’m on 13 as of this month!) Propranolol was what we–I–decided on because it would also help headaches.

And Propranolol has been the wonder drug. My headaches are much, much, much better–the dosage had to be increased several times-I take the medication three times a day–my heart is doing better and the dizziness is gone.

If only I had started it sooner…

On a similar note, I had a tumor removed in the summer of 2015 on my finger because the pain–after years and years–had gotten really, really bad. Now that tumor and another tumor are growing. Instead of waiting and waiting, I am getting them addressed now. As a result, I am having surgery (#5!) this May to take care of one of them. The other tumor will be removed later on becuase it’s not large enough, according to the doctors.

So, to all the people out there with a very high tolerance for pain–just because you are used to it and can handle it, doesn’t mean you have to. See the doctor. And take medications!

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda