(rights) Suicide and the Right to Life

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The last new one for today...

Suicide and the Right to Life

by Tibor Machan

Professor, Department of Philosophy Auburn Universtiy

from Suicide and the Right to Life

Most of us have witnessed the sage of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan doctors whose has been aiding some people who wanted to commit suicide and whose efforts have met with considerable resistance from Michigan politicians. Now comes news that in Canada both suicide and assisting another who wants to die are forbidden. It is illegal in Canada "to advise, encourage or assist another person to perform an act that intentionally brings about his or her death."

In light of this, Sue Rodriguez, a 43 year old Lou Gehrig disease patient, had been asking the Canadian courts to change the law and to allow her to end her life, in the face of certain and painful death, one that the ban simply prolongs. But the Canadian courts would not budge and, in the end, Ms. Rodriguez did get an unnamed doctor to help her anyway. She died in the arms of MP Svend Robinson, who is part of a movement similar to that in the United States where it has failed to get the law changed in referenda in the states of Washington and California.

That the law in the United States of America would ban suicides and assisted suicides is scandalous. In this country each person's right to life is supposed to be protected by the government. True, the U. S. Constitution does not directly protect each person's right to life. The Ninth Amendment, however, states clearly that even rights to enumerated in the Constitution must be protected. And since the founding document of this country, the Declaration of Independence, mentions everyone's right to life as one held to be self-evident by the founders, it follows clearly that the Ninth Amendment must include the right to life that government may not violate.

But, one might wonder, how could someone defend suicide or assisted suicide by reference to the right to life! It is no mystery, actually.

When one has a right, it means one has a choice. The right to freedom of religion means that one who has such a right may not be prevented from choosing which religion to adopt or even whether to adopt a religion at all. The right to freedom of speech means one may not be prevented from choosing whether to speak out on something or to remain silent. Rights are precisely that sort of political principle: they afford us with choice in the midst of a communities where others could prevent us from having such a choice. A free society is one which recognizes, in its legal system, these basic rights of human beings.

The right to life, in turn, means that no one may prevent us from choosing to live, or making the choice not to live if that is what we judge best for us. As to the option of commit suicide with the aid of someone else, here things get a bit complicated because assistance could easily be seen as murder. So the instrument of a "living will" or something similar to it needs to be established so as to make clear that any invited suicide assistance is not, in fact, murder.

Once that precaution has been taken, however, a free society stands in opposition to itself when it bans suicides or assisted suicides. Of course, as with every liberty, this one can also be exercised unwisely. But a free society rests on the conviction that the risk is worth it. We ought to treat our adult citizens not as we treat our children, dependents, namely paternalistically. We ought to treat them with respect for their adulthood, their sovereignty.

Perhaps in Canada the philosophical underpinnings for respecting the rights of individual human beings to choose whether they will live or die do not exist. But the United States of America is supposed to be the leader of the free world, meaning, the leading free country in the world. This obligates it to guard individual rights more vigilantly than they are guarded anywhere else.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), June 30, 2000


Eve, dear, you are such a nice person. BUT, tell me, who decides when to pull the life support systems on Ronald Reagan who has Alzheimers?

Who decides for the 25 year old father of 2 lying comatose in a hospital after a Saturday night car crash? His Mother, Father or Wife? When do they decide? People wake up after 3 years in a coma.

I think that anyone who really wants to commit suicide will. You don't need a Dr. Jack for that.

A real problem is "how far away from the line of Soylent Green do you draw that line?".

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), June 30, 2000.

Ditto cpr. (I can't believe I said that)

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 30, 2000.

The State of Oregon, where I live, has been wrestling with this issue for several years. We officially passed (twice!) an assisted suicide law that is operating today. It was designed to address a particular set of individuals, those who:

- are terminally ill and diagnosed as being within 6 months of death, and

- are not suffering from mental instability, depression or incompetance, and

- make a request for a prescription (which, if administered will cause death) and repeat this request no less than two weeks after their initial request.

This leaves out people like Reagan or people in comas. It is mainly seen as providing an early escape from a terminal illness the sufferer finds intolerable. It is up to the terminally ill patient to decide what they find to be intolerable.

As the debate progressed in Oregon, it became apparent to me that the intent of the law was one I could endorse, and the safeguards for individuals were reasonably strict without making the obstacles insuperable. I voted for it.

The most important issue in my mind, that the law could not address, was the degree to which society is willing to accept the responsibility for making one's final days as tolerable as possible. This means providing "comfort care" and pain relief when a cure is no longer under consideration. No one should find their last days intolerable because they do not have anyone to talk to, or bed sores, or pain that could be relieved by drugs.

That is why I resolved at the same time I voted to direct some of my charitable contributions to hospice providers.


-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), June 30, 2000.

I am unconfortable with this policy mostly because of the "slippery slope" possibilities. As a disabled person, I can imagine a situation in which a person is sentient but physically unable to take their own life and they would ask the state to do it for them

But if the state is legally allowed to kill someone just because they are miserable then how big a step is it to the state deciding to kill someone who doesn't know how miserable they are? Hey, let's put all those crips and retards out of their misery. And think of the money we'll save by not having to keep them alive in hospices or wherever.

I realize that slippery-slope arguments apply everywhere and nothing would ever be done about anything if the worst-case outcome was the deciding factor. But this particular slippery slope did happen once already--in Nazi Germany. Before the Jews were exterminated, the disableds and homosexuals were put out of their misery.

I am not being consistent here--I am in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes. I think Ted Bundy got exactly what he deserved. But I realize that the slippery-slope logic could be used to oppose any state-sonsored death, whether euthanasia or execution.

FS--are you there? You oppose the death penalty. Do you have an opinion on euthanasia?

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 30, 2000.

I agree, Brian. Kevorkian didn't make decisions on who should live or who should die. He was dealing with people who didn't have the physical strength to put themselves out of their own misery. I would have voted in the same way had the item been on my ballot.

I have a longtime friend in Chicago whose mom was dying. Her mom was in such bad shape that she was down to 60 pounds, in constant pain, etc. Her mom begged her to kill her. Her mom lived in Florida, so there came a time when push came to shove regarding how long this thing should drag on. When I received the letter from my friend elucidating on how there were "code" words used to essentially tell the folks in charge that it was time to let her mom go, I was a bit shocked. It sounded like she WANTED her mom to die. She did, yet she didn't.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), June 30, 2000.

This is another issue that's easy to conceptually say "why not", but in practice might not be such a good thing. As I understand it, many of the terminally ill who *want* to die do so because of chronic pain and/or fear of disability. It's also well known that many MDs *under*-medicate for pain with narcotics.

It would really bother me to get to a situation where we were letting people kill themselves BEFORE trying to adequately palliatively treat their underlying illness. I have a feeling that this will happen though, as these patients can be *expensive*, and although it won't be said outright it's cheaper to let them die than treat them.

OTOH, the one good argument I've heard for euthenasia is that it gives all patients the same rights. For example, a patient who needs a medication to live can *stop taking it* and die at home without assistance, whereas a patient who wants to die who has an illness *without* such an escape route has to suffer with it. State-sponsored euthenasia would equalize both groups of patients.

Personally though, I'd much rather pass laws to make sure these patients were REALLY getting the treatment they need (and not just what's cost-effective to their HMO) than passing laws to help them kill themselves.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), June 30, 2000.

I have the right to end my life if it's "quality" has declined to a point that every day means more pain and there is no hope for change.

I suggest it happens many times each day and no one knows it was a purposeful act.

-- fauna (xx@xx.xx), June 30, 2000.


Anyone who is physically able has the "right" to end their lives at any time (in the sense that they can't be stopped). All they have to do is rest a shotgun on the floor, point it up under their chin & pull the trigger.

I think the issue here is for people who are either:

A) too debilitated to do that, or

B) want .gov approval of their actions.

At least, that's what I think on this reading...


P.S. Does anyone know what would happen with someone's life insurance if their suicide was approved by the State? Would their heirs collect or not?

-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), July 01, 2000.

I very well undertand your concern about letting palliative care slip, while leaning more and more heavily on the cheaper alternative of death. It is my major concern, too.

One aspect of the law in Oregon is that physicians are directed to make confidential reports to the state, for the purpose of keeping accurate stats on what is happening, so the effect of the law can be evaluated.

So far, the most striking thing to me is that very few people have taken advantage of the law. Of those who acquire the deadly prescription a majority die without choosing to take it. They apparently were just preparing an escape hatch, just in case, and never felt the need to use that hatch. This bodes well for the idea that families might pressure their elderly parents into using the law and killing themselves. It doesn't seem to be happening.

The small number of families that have chosen to speak publically have been pretty unanimous about their gratitude at their dying relative having the option to end life relatively easily. The stories have been generally harrowing and the relief of all concerned has been palpable.

I do understand the other concern about the disabled being put away, as the Nazis did. My own daughter is very severely handicapped and would be among the first to be considered, if that came to pass. She costs the taxpayers $245 for every day she lives. She can't do anything for herslf and can't communicate beyond emotive noises. Yet, I feel there is no slippery slope involved here. There may not be much understanding of my daughter in the general public, but there is a very deep emotional current among Americans to protect "crippled children".

Lars, the very fact that you are able to communicate so ably and forcefully is your sword and your shield. There is a huge leap from allowing a competant elder near death to choose an easier death than chance has given them and choosing to kill the helpless as an act of presumed "mercy". Most people know that caring is more merciful than murder.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), July 01, 2000.

Ah, mercy. Have none of you had to put a pet 'to sleep' for merciful reasons?

Frank wrote:

"I think the issue here is for people who are either:

A) too debilitated to do that, or

B) want .gov approval of their actions.

At least, that's what I think on this reading...


P.S. Does anyone know what would happen with someone's life insurance if their suicide was approved by the State? Would their heirs collect or not?"

I think folks would like to take the most humane way out, so as not to distress family members and others. {PS There are more peaceful & less gruesome available means, Frank}.

As for your excellent PS question, I would bet that insurance comapnies would do anything not to pay up, and that it would be hotly contended in the courts.

Since I am involved with many folks who have to deal with the consequences and aftermaths of such attempts, this pushes a hot button or two for me.

-- flora (***@__._), July 01, 2000.

I will share a very personal story with all of you.

Last fall I lost a cousin (who was like a brother to me). He lived with constant pain and the pills were not working. He had made it to 70 and the last 10 were pure hell. He died in his easy chair in the middle of the night. The family accepted it as a natural death but I am most sure he took some extra pills and went to sleep. If this was true I do not condem him for his actions. His ashes were scattered at a beautiful spot where he had lived. His family was spared more suffering....both his and theirs.

Not wanting to stop on a sad note did you hear about the cowboy in court who was sueing for medical damages? The judge told him that at the scene of the accident he had said he was "just fine". He told the judge that the reason was that the police had just shot his injured horse on the other side of the road and when they came over and asked how he was doing he said........................

-- fauna (xx@xx.xx), July 01, 2000.


The death penalty and euthanasia are not similar; No one has ever suggested in the euthanasia debates that an employee of the state perform an act at all. If a state, such as Oregon, has a referendum and the people of the state say it is okay-the "state" as an entity have not made a decision. The difference with the death penalty is that in most cases the person is being killed against their will.

More on this tomorrow.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 01, 2000.

Thank you all for getting involved with some very thought-provoking posts on such a crucial topic. As I've mentioned, I've now spread myself extremely thin regarding my wanting to stay involved with the threads I've started. I hope to get into this one before too long, although I'll be off line for a few days next week, making things even more difficult for myself.

cpr, thank you for your kind thought about me.

Anyway, just a hint for now, though: Kevorkian is one of my heroes.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 01, 2000.


My brother is a big advocate of euthanasia. He is even a member of the Hemlock Society. I don't subscribe to extrordinary life-support and I have a Living Will and that other document whose name escapes my non-legal mind but I think that legally protected death-assistance is a very dangerous precedent for a society. I look forward to your next post.

Eve--gosh, Dr Death is your hero? Yuk. Mine is Michael Jordan.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 01, 2000.

Just checking in quickly this A.M.,


Not mine. Remember, he was a *pathologist*, not a physician who spent his career caring for patients. While this is not to denigrate pathologists, I think he may have had a different attitude if he had to interact with the people he now provides his "services" for.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), July 01, 2000.

Lars and Frank,

He's one of my heroes because he relieved suffering, and is/was courageous enough to challenge "the system" practically alone and against all odds, in order to do it.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 01, 2000.


I respect that, I just wonder if he wouldn't have put more effort into looking for alternatives if he had to deal with his patients as people before going on his crusade.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), July 01, 2000.


A very thought-provoking point. But I think it's possible that in that case he could very well have been even more intent on pressing the suicide option -- depending on the nature and extent of his patient's suffering. Or maybe -- as you seem to suggest -- less.

You know, though, I think emotional attachments to patients (I assume that's what you're implying here) could lead to pushing patients in directions that they actually shouldn't be going in, so one could argue that in any case, it may be better that he hadn't known them in advance. But good food for thought.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 01, 2000.

This poem has always said it for me. Suicide is not an option whether I do it myself or whether I hire a skilled and compassionate executioner. God gave me this life and it is his to take in due time. That is what I believe.


Do not go gently into that good night

Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 01, 2000.

>> This poem has always said it for me. <<

I am of a mind with you, Lars. I presently believe that suicide is not an option I would want to take.

Two points only. For you and I, and for others, this is still a personal decision. The Dylan Thomas poem may not be a decisive argument to someone else. I am willing to give them latitude in that choice.

It is one thing to make the choice today not to take one's life. It is another thing to make that choice for all possible days that may come one's way. Under enough duress, everyone changes, anyone can discover that what rang true yesterday rings hollow today. I may change my mind about this. You might, too.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), July 02, 2000.

This topic hits too close to home...

Being in constant, excruciating pain for four years, mostly confined to bed in the fetal position, while doctors refuse to prescribe any serious medication for fear of DEA reprisals, suicide is the only way out of this horror for me. I consider it on a daily basis. While I would like more than anything else to recover and enjoy all the delights the world has to offer, what I'm experiencing is hell on earth. This is NO LIFE! We treat our *animals* with more compassion than this! When it's time, it's time and I'm afraid my date with the gods is drawing closer.....if you are so inclined, a prayer or positive sentiments would be most welcome and appreciated.

-- LunaC (OnTheEdge@farewell.com), July 02, 2000.


Thanks for your kind words about my communication skills. Coming from you, that is high praise.

I don't take the Thomas poem to be an absolute, eternal truth for all people at all times. A weakness of mine has always been to hedge my bets--so I allow for the possibility that anyone could reach a threshold of physical or spiritual pain that would "justify" suicide. But, except for extraordinary circumstances, I totally reject suicide. We did not create ourselves. I am content to say that our lives are God-given and to me that means that taking my own life is morally equivelent to taking someone else's life. Our lives are not our own to take.

As a younger person I went thru a stage in which I flirted with the idea of suicide. It seemed romantic, dramatic. I now believe that suicide is self-indulgent and gutless. Again, I make exceptions.

Likewise, I make exceptions for the killing of another--self defense of oneself or one's family is the most obvious exception. And, reluctantly, I support state-murder (execution) of those who have clearly taken another's life. I do not justify a death penalty on vengeance but as simple justice. (And on deterrance). To not execute a murderer is tantamount to saying the murderer's life is worth more than the victim's.

I am so sorry to learn of your daughter's situation. There are no words--- except maybe "vaya con Dios".

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 02, 2000.


I did not see your post until I posted my response to Brian. You surely have my prayers altho you are part of an increasingly long list. I think prayers are answered---just not in the ways we petition. I know several people in circumstances that I think are similar to yours. Their suffering has brought them closer to a conscious state of grace than they have ever known.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 02, 2000.


I had no idea. I guess that is why your posts are so far apart at times. DEA Reprisals? Would it be better to move somewhere where the doctors are not so paranoid? Have you looked into options of buying medication out of the country? I send healing waves your way. Should you choose to end this incarnation I certainly support you.

This whole issue speaks to fundamental rights-and if we have a right to life, we have a right to take that life-as someone said earlier- any other conclusion is a logical fallacy.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 02, 2000.

Yes, DEA reprisals. If it wasn't so sad, you'd laugh out loud over some of the excuses doctors have given me as to why they didn't want to prescribe pain medication or somewhat conceeded by UNDERprescribing on a temporary basis. (big whoop!) It didn't matter what kind of documentation I presented to counter their position. It never made sense to me that physicians who were supposedly entrusted with a patient's physical and mental well-being could be so lacking in compassion and totally close minded until I came across the link referenced above. Then it made perfect sense. The doctors are scared shitless...They don't dare risk losing their financial foundation. As with many other tragedies, follow the money and there you'll have your answer!

And here's the real kicker...I've been told I've seen some of the best doctors in the country, which I find totally laughable. If these guys are the best of the best, it's no wonder the ="http://www.uniontrib.com/news/utarchives/cgi/idoc.cgi?578277+un ix++www.uniontrib.com..80+Union-Tribune+Union-Tribune+Library+Library+ +%28%2B37>U.S. ranks 37th in the world for health system efficiency.

And I'm certainly not the Lone Ranger in my dilemma...there are dozens of net sites and mailing lists devoted to pain sufferers seeking relief. The stories are heartbreaking. Millions are needlessly suffering. So much for the miracles of "modern" medicine!

And Customs are clamping down on overseas pharmacies - protecting all us "druggies" from ourselves, you know - so that last bastion of hope has been slammed shut as well.

I can only wonder how many fewer suicides we'd have if people were *properly* treated with all means available instead of being cast aside to deal with the horror on their own. I had always been healthy and never needed a doctor until an unusual biomechanical problem raised it's head, so I didn't realize the absolutely horrid state of our health care system until I saw it first hand. It's truly appalling! Doctors are not healers any more, they're glorified technicians, and they're even good at THAT!

-- LunaC (OnTheEdge@close.com), July 02, 2000.


Don't give up!

I don't know what part of the country you live in, but have you thought of trying a doctor in another part of the U.S.? Also how about a "Complementary Medicine" or Holistic physician as opposed to the ordinary cut-and-poison types? How about accupuncture? I had to deal with 25 years of increasing headaches that were so bad that it felt like my head was going to explode, and I was chomping pain killers like candy. Believe me I tried just about everything that seemed even reasonably likely to help, including Chinese Medicine. Finally "I" learned about and suggested the special MRI that spotted the problem and was able to have it surgically corrected.

Happy ending, no more bad headaches! Never give up!!!

BTW, I agree with you completely on the issue of under-prescribing of pain killing drugs, and the likely reduction in suicides if patients with chronic pain were better treated.

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), July 02, 2000.

It has been my lifes experience to behold many spectrums , one can experience their elderly Uncle or Aunt dying of Cancer. While one can only feed a spoonful of food, into a still living mouth for comfort. Only to see the recently ingested food, fall from the vagina. I must STAND UP, for all I am worth, which is nothing, and ask, with all the billions your Cancer Research had bled, mankind, So, Why Don't you have an answer? Billions of taxpayer dollars your door step. I am NOT am ambulance chaser. I am a seeker of truth, and a POX upon the heads, who are liars.

-- My Story (andi@sticking.com), July 02, 2000.

"my story",

You ridicule many heartfelt comments. What's the deal? Strikes me that "your story" is a demented story.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 03, 2000.

Flash - Don't give up!

Thanks for the moral support. I'm truly trying to hang in there but there are limits to what the human body and spirit can endure. Pain, as you know, is an extraordinarily exhausting proposition. After four years, I'm pretty close to tapping out the reserves. I feel like TinkerBell in Peter Pan...her light kept getting dimmer and dimmer as time went on.

I don't know what part of the country you live in, but have you thought of trying a doctor in another part of the U.S.?

Travelling at this juncture is impossible. Heck, I can barely make it to the *bathroom* and some days I don't eat because the kitchen seems a million miles away.

Also how about a "Complementary Medicine" or Holistic physician as opposed to the ordinary cut-and-poison types? How about accupuncture?

I'm holistically oriented by nature and I've tried dozens of alternative therapies, including acupuncture, all without success. In fact, I've become somewhat of an expert on every alternative therapy known to man at this point. -g- But I sincerely appreciate your concern and your nudge in this direction.

I wonder - in the case of your headaches - how you managed to get a doctor to not only LISTEN to you but to actually follow-up with the appropriate test? Doctors, oh great gods they imagine themselves to be, don't enjoy us uppity commoners coming up with possibilities they haven't considered. It hurts their ego and makes them dig in their heels. If I gave you the play by play of this ordeal, you'd sit there with your mouth open. (But don't worry...I'll spare you the gruesome details.)

-- LunaC (HoldingOn@fingertips.com), July 03, 2000.

Oops...sorry about the italics.

-- LunaC (BadDay@home.com), July 03, 2000.

LunaC, you have the fullness of my best wishes.

But, sad to say, I think I know the full extent of their effectiveness for the problems you are facing. I know they do not ease your pain. They do not let you rest, when rest will not come. They do not comfort the place that most needs comfort. I am truly sorry about that. It is my limit.

You are the only person who knows the "last ditch" of your being that your soul is defending. It tears at me to know that you are the only one on that rampart. My best wishes reach that particular place inside you like the echo of the whisper of a sweet memory. They remind you that there are other souls around you who care about your plight, but however they care, we may not enter deep enough into your being to contend with your enemy in concert with you. You wax and wane under the same moon, but not by our calculations.

Remember that, whatever happens, the final victory is already yours. You need not save yourself. You need not believe in any savior. The outcome is guaranteed and it shall be triumphant, and it shall reverberate to the ends of the universe at the end of time.

Let me assure you I am not just talking through my hat in an effort to be funny or to console you with some happy dream or pious lie. All that is still in in doubt are the last details of your perfection. Your perfection is as radiant as your pain is real. Nothing could be more true than this.

You do have my best wishes. Put them anywhere convenient. Treat them the way you'd treat a bunch of flowers. If it's a bad day, don't bother to find a vase for them.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), July 03, 2000.

What is the difference between a "right" and a "choice"?

-- -- -- (antkicker@Ihatethishandle.com), July 03, 2000.

Brian, your poetic words touched me to my very core and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. On so many levels for so many reasons. Your quiet voice of knowing in the middle of the night has brought me great peace and calm and in the process has renewed me to wake up another day with the hope of new possibilities before me. You are truly a kind, gentle and wise Old Soul.

Again, from the depths of my heart, thank you!

-- LunaC (sniffle@heartfelt.com), July 03, 2000.

Lars, thank you for posting this Dylan Thomas poem. It is one of my favorites.

Brian, a beautiful post with heartfelt words. I know I could not improve on your sentiments. Still, I would like to add a few thoughts of my own.

LunaC, I cannot say that I truly *know* the pain you feel, but I live with someone who suffers constantly with the pain that you describe. Daily, for the last 6 year I have watched her struggle. And I have been a helpless witness to the pain that wears away at her slowly, and at times, completely. I often wonder, how does she keep going? Yet, for my own selfish reasons I am so grateful that she does, for without her presence my life would mean so much less. Thank you for sharing your struggles Luna. You have reminded me that we need to let others know how much they are thought of. And my thoughts and prayers are with you.

-- Grace (SincerelyGrace@aol.com), July 03, 2000.

Luna C,

I just now saw your post. Believe me; I've been there -- and came back. And, during it, there's no way at all I ever would have believed I could come back. Please e-mail me if you can; I have much I could share with you. If you (or others) prefer, I could post what happened to me right here, as well.

Don't give up.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 03, 2000.


Please keep trying to find a good doctor. It took me quite a while and I went through quite a few until I found a good one who would listen and not just classify a person as a "nut case" if their problems aren't curable by "accepted methods". There a few good doctors, a lot of average ones, and unfortunately too many substandard ones. Please Keep Trying. Fortunately, with the Internet we have access to a vast wealth of information, sources, and providers. Our prayers are with you!

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), July 03, 2000.


It would be interesting and no doubt helpful to some if you would post your story/information. It takes a lot of courage to do such, and I admire yours.

I've been wondering if it might be worthwhile to start a small forum on Greenspun to discuss Medical/Health issues. Is there any interest in this among some forum members? Some of us could co-moderate it.

OTFR - If you care to offer any advice on starting and lightly moderating a forum, please do so!

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), July 03, 2000.


I hope you won't consider me too nosey or insensitive, but do you have any guesses on why you've been in constant pain for four years? From where does your pain emulate? Head, stomach? My feeling has always been that pain is a message from the body that something is wrong. I wouldn't want painkillers. I'd want to treat whatever is CAUSING the brain to send the signal. OTOH, if you already KNOW what is causing the pain and have been told that there is no cure, I'd want the painkillers. I guess I'm just confused.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), July 03, 2000.

Grace - You have reminded me that we need to let others know how much they are thought of.

Yes, definitely! For those of us who were previously Busy Bees and are now among the "useless eaters", knowing that we make a positive contribution and can still touch the lives of others makes all the difference in the world!

Eve and Flash - I still do as much research as I can for new avenues, therapies, doctors, healers I haven't yet pursued but the options are growing slimmer and slimmer while my list of what's been unproductive grows and grows. The emotional ups and downs can be dramatic, as you can both imagine from your own personal experiences. The fact that you've both managed to overcome your past difficulties gives me renewed hope, and the outpouring of encouragement and support gives me a much needed boost of energy at a critical time to keep me on my quest for recovery. Thank you one and all!

Eve, I'll be taking you up on your offer and will write to your privately.

I'm truly touched by everyone's caring! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

-- LunaC (AnotherDay@hope.com), July 03, 2000.

Luna C,

I'm sorry, I think I misread your post. I assumed your pain was mental/emotional -- that was the nature of my pain. My pain was from three separate severe, clinical depressions; two of them brought me very close to suicide, though. Physical pain was not a part of my problems.

Flash, in response to your request:

My depressions were responses to three specific life crises. They culminated in my having no appetite, being very confused, unable to remember things, crying much of the time, barely able to function at work, and at its worst, I had gotten to the point where I was practically unable to function at all -- even getting out of bed was terrifying to me; then the thoughts of suicide.

The things that helped me to get out of this included a strong will to live, partial hospitalization (a 5-hour-a-day program), understanding the nature and absolutely crucial importance of self- esteem, and -- of course -- my kids.

I had been on four drugs, including Prozac and Xanax. The Xanax was very effective, but as it's addictive, I was advised to take it only if I absolutely had to. The effects of the Prozac were unclear.

Lots more here, but I wanted to at least do a sketch for now. I'll be happy to fill in details if anyone's interested, though.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 03, 2000.

Luna C,

Here I go again, trying to write too fast. I understand that your depression/suicidal thoughts appear to stem from your physical ailment; the depression/suicidal thoughts we DO have in common; the CAUSES were vastly different, though.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 03, 2000.

Anita - I hope you won't consider me too nosey or insensitive, but do you have any guesses on why you've been in constant pain for four years? From where does your pain emulate?

I have a rather severe scoliosis that is unusual inasmuch as it also has a twisted/torqued positioning along with the S-curve common with this biomechanical problem. The pain is centered around my sacrum, extends into the buttocks and hips, causing muscle spasms and burning, agonizing numbness down my legs that make it impossible to stand or walk. Sitting for more than half an hour is "iffy" even on my good days. My pelvis is tipped forward and it feels like my spine is grinding into the sacral area whenever I'm upright. Even though medical tests have clearly indicated an impinged S1 nerve along with other contributing degenerative problems, the docs simply dismiss this and tell me "That's not your problem." (EXCUSE ME???)

I'm aware of the chakras and realize that the sacrum represents not only my foundation, but my "survival instinct" as well. At the time this started I was under tremendous stress (running one business while starting another, nurturing my mother who had just left a 40 yr. marriage, and dodging a violent ex-husband who vowed to kill me). So yes, the correlation is obvious. My foundations were overburdened and simply gave out.

The problem I'm having is trying to get everything BACK to where it was so I can function again. Because of the unusual spinal orientation, this seems to be a challenge to dozens upon dozens of traditional medical and alternative practitioners. It would be similar to reconstructing a collapsed house without the original blueprints.

-- LunaC (HangingInThere@home.com), July 03, 2000.


I had the lower back problems for a while, along with the pinched nerves that radiated throughout my legs. I found a good chiropractor who treated me for OVER a year, but even that wasn't enough. I had to eliminate the SOURCE, which in essence explains my divorce. [grin]

I've never had to have surgery for the pinched nerves. I did have to do exercises for several years, and SOME chiropractors would lead you to believe that you must do those exercises the rest of your life. I haven't done them for years now and haven't suffered from the problem. Once your body gets back in harmony with nature by elimination of the stresses that would cause even a healthy spine to tighten, the problem isn't likely to recur if you avoid people who induce stress.

The BIG hurdle is getting over the pain by releasing the stress placed on the nerves. I'd like to discuss this with you as well. I may just have some tips on how to decipher a good chiropractic from one who's just in it for the money. The E-mail works if you're interested.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), July 03, 2000.

I am touched by this whole thread. The folks I "hang out with" showing so much concern and offering heart-felt sentiments and advice. I have traveled long and far to find this-and I never thought I would find it on the internet. I know if I had a problem now I could air it here and have welcome ears.


What can I say? You have written the most brilliant words I have read in years-I too have tears close to my eyes. Drop those technical manuals and write those other books-you are an incredible talent with an enormous gift. I for one would read any spiritual book or work of fiction you would write.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 03, 2000.

I second that emotion, FS

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 03, 2000.


Seeing other comments led me to read your post. It was indeed very beautiful; and something we can all take with us. Thank you.

Luna C,

Please stay in touch with me, even though our sources of depression are different; I think I can still help. From what I've seen of you, you're too precious to lose.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 03, 2000.

You people are wonderful. Truly wonderful. The compassion, the love poured out on this thread is palpable. And the feeling is sitting here waiting for the next reader to tune into it. Luna, thank you for speaking up.

Brian, I'm going to read your post over and over until the cyber-ink smudges from my tears.

Folks, perhaps some of us can do even more than post our heart-felt thoughts and the concomitant vibrations. I will meet anyone who wishes to discuss this possibility in Boks tonight. Name the time and Ill be there. Im in the Eastern Time Zone. My e-mail addy is real.

You all make me feel very, very proud.

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), July 03, 2000.

Any Ray,

Did you read this thread as I suggested? How many Fascists did you see? Would you please identify them?

-- (nemesis@awol.com), July 03, 2000.

Anita - I've never had to have surgery for the pinched nerves.

Surgery is something I'd never agree to even if it was suggested to me....agreeing to surgery once is essentially agreeing to a *life* of continuous surgeries as problems compound over time.

Once your body gets back in harmony with nature by elimination of the stresses that would cause even a healthy spine to tighten, the problem isn't likely to recur if you avoid people who induce stress.

The people I expected to be supportive were the first ones to hit the door while folks I barely knew came out of the shadows to say "What can we do to help?" It's been an incredible eye-opener. But people aren't the problem at this juncture as far as stress is concerned. Losing the business I built and ran for 16 years, never being able to launch my other enterprise (which sits ready to be marketed), using up all my savings and retirement funds, and selling my properties to pay for medical and living expenses and STILL facing the prospect of bankrupcy weighs heavily on this first-born, anal-retentive, over-achiever. -g-

The BIG hurdle is getting over the pain by releasing the stress placed on the nerves.

Oh, I unquestionably agree! But because the pain has persisted for so long without relief, other complications have now set in that also have to be dealt with (Myofascial Pain Syndrome and - supposedly - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy which is a sign that the brain is stuck in the pain/spasm/pain cycle.) It's a sticky wicket.

I may just have some tips on how to decipher a good chiropractic from one who's just in it for the money.

Boy, I could have used that advice four years ago! Through the course of time I've seen at least six different chiroquackers - all using different techniques - and have finally found a Dynamic Duo who I've been seeing for the past month. The one is a Rolfer and he releases the deep muscle tissues prior to the chiro adjustment so the adjustment is more likely to "stay", rather than have the stressed muscles pull the vertebra right back to where they started. While they're extremely happy with my progress thus far, I haven't felt much in the way of pain relief and am anxious for that occur. Patience can be a such cruel task master.

The E-mail works if you're interested.

Oh, I'm certainly open to any insights you might have to add to the arsenal and I'll be contacting you privately. Thanks!

FutureShock to Brian: You have written the most brilliant words I have read in years

There is only one other personal correspondence that I've received in this lifetime that has touched me as deeply as Brian's...the beauty, depth and inspiration of his message is beyond words and will always be treasured.

Bingo - Luna, thank you for speaking up.

I must admit that if I had been having a reasonably "good" day (which is a relative term) I never would have "burdened" the forum with my story. But if everything happens for a specific purpose, then this thread appeared just in the nick of time because I was truly in desperate and dire straights and my fingers flew over the keyboards with a mind of their own. I'm glad I let loose with abandon because the love, energy, compassion, genuine warmth and caring I received in return has made such a tremendous difference in the whole scheme of things that I cannot thank you all enough...words seem so inadequate to express my feelings.

Through all of my trials and tribulations I think the most important thing I've learned is this: "Family" is not necessarily comprised of blood relatives but of kindred spirits and kind hearts! You are all so truly wonderful and special! I'm honored to count you among my Family!!

-- LunaC (Heartfelt@Thanks.com), July 03, 2000.

I too am gratified but unsurprised by the support for you here.

A question if I may. "Surgery is something I'd never agree to even if it was suggested to me..." I take it surgery has not been suggested?

For reality's sake let me remind that whatever your experience with doctors nothing puts you in their kook book faster than belligerence. Shop around but be open to what they may offer as what you describe aint gonna get fixed by herbs or bonepoppers.

As for pain killers. I have one who's up to 1200mg (not a typo) of morphine a day. If it's a dead end find a pain clinic.

Hope I didn't offend.

-- Carlos (riffraff1@cybertime.net), July 04, 2000.

Carlos - I take it surgery has not been suggested?

Initially an orthopedist decided I had a ruptured disk based on his examination alone but he refused to order an MRI unless I agreed to surgery. He said the rupture would heal itself in time. I believed this doc, who is supposedly one of THE most highly respected specialists in his field, so I went off to treat the rupture he diagnosed using a non-intrusive, unique therapy called Vax-D.

After thousands of dollars and several painful months there was no improvement so I sought out yet another ortho (not as highly respected, mind you) who saw the wisdom of an MRI. And guess what? No ruptured disk! So much for "expert" opinion.

Then there was the neurologist who never even *looked* at my back and completely missed that the scoliosis even existed. He wanted to run a series of expensive tests to examine my *brain* for a BACK problem! I was outta' there in a quick minute.

Then for one year I argued with three different doctors who insisted I had MS while I insisted I didn't. Once again, I knew my body better than them. I eventually sought out the local MS specialist whose first words to me were: "You DON'T have MS!" (No shit, Sherlock... try telling it to those three other Bozos!) and proceeded to outline all the reasons why this was true....all the same reasons, all the same documentation from reputable sources I presented to the previous three docs to prove my point, but they all refused to consider MY opinion. I mean, I was just a silly-ass patient, after all. What could *I* possibly know? Of course, when the specialist's conclusion was presented to the first three docs to prove me correct, it was beneath them to make any apology whatsoever for their long-standing MISdiagnosis.

Since then I've been to a variety of other doctors and have gotten a different diagnosis depending upon the specialist I'm seeing. It's like each specialist has a menu of their favorite diseases and whichever of your symptoms comes closest to one of the items on their menu, that's what they decide the diagnosis will be. Essentially, they were throwing darts and coming up with (ahem) educated guesses.

Well, I just don't trust them any more. They have tested every inch of my body BUT the part that hurts. I have been poked, prodded, injected, kneaded, pushed, pulled, stretched, contorted, medicated, ignored, and tortured while they refused to *listen* to logic and rubbed their hands in glee, hearing "Cha-Ching" at every turn.

Oh, the idiocy goes on and on. Like I said earlier, if I gave you the *whole* play-by-play account you'd be appalled by the horrendous medical care I've received (which seems to be the STANDARD, not the exception these days.)

For reality's sake let me remind that whatever your experience with doctors nothing puts you in their kook book faster than belligerence.

That door swings both ways and I have no faith in or *respect* for the traditional medical community. At this point, I don't particularly give a damn what they think of ME! If I'm paying them, then they damn well better treat me decently and let me be an integral part of the healing process. Otherwise, fuck 'em! Talk to anyone who's ridden the medical merry-go-round and their response is the same: "Take charge of your doctor!"

And since when is being informed, asking questions and offering suggestions considered belligerence?

Shop around but be open to what they may offer as what you describe aint gonna get fixed by herbs or bonepoppers.

I have to disagree. I believe the alternative medical community has the best grasp on the *interconnectedness* of the various problems that are all occuring. The traditional medical "specialists" insist on seeing only a small, isolated portion of the problem and I don't exist as a whole being to them. That's not how I look at life nor the manner in which I choose to approach my health care.

As for pain killers. I have one who's up to 1200mg (not a typo) of morphine a day.

One WHAT, if I may ask? Am I correct in assuming you're one of THEM...a...a...(gasp) DOCTOR!

If it's a dead end find a pain clinic.

Been there, done that, the t-shirt's old and moldy. -g- Their first mode of attack is to order an endless series of cortisone injections EVERYWHERE BUT WHERE IT HURTS! Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. All to no avail.

The last pain doc I saw said he wouldn't prescribe any pain meds at all unless I agreed to see a Pain Psychologist so I could learn about meditation and breathing, etc, to help control the pain. "But doc, I already know all that stuff and do it on a regular basis already. This "Pain Psychologist" isn't covered by my insurance and I don't have the bucks to pay out of pocket." And the doc's response? "Oh, that's too bad!" End of story. No treatment. And so he slammed the door in my face. So much for compassion.

Hope I didn't offend.

Certainly not! I know you meant well and you didn't hear enough of the story to fully understand why I hate the traditional medical bastards. They're small-minded, ego-centric, arrogant know-it-alls whose opinion of themselves is far more grandiose than their actual abilities. When they come down off their pedestals and actually learn the art of *listening* and stop jumping to conclusions as their patient's expense, then perhaps I will reconsider my opinion. If they had bothered to treat me properly at the onset, I wouldn't be sitting in a wheelchair today! I have fully come to understand why they refer to it as "practicing" medicine...one of these days they're bound to get it right.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are natural, non-intrusive means to restore my body to its proper balance without slicing and dicing, exposing me to a wide range of risks and setting me up for additional complications further down the road. It's just a matter of enduring the pain while I try to find that particular Someone who is familiar and experienced enough with the intricacies of my problem that remains the challenge. From all I've experienced and endured, that Someone will NOT be found within the traditional medical community, of that I am certain.

Sorry for the rant. You opened up a particularly sensitive can of worms. And if you are, indeed, a member of the traditional medical community then I hope I have provided you with some useful insights from the viewpoint of the patient. Some of us ARE well-informed. Some of us DO know our bodies better than anyone else. Some of us feel that we deserve to be heard and *assisted* in achieving our own healing. I guess it all comes down to a matter of *respect*.

-- LunaC (KillTheLawyers-AND-Docs@shakespeare.com), July 04, 2000.


If you have yet to contact eve, please do so today. An e-mail has been sent to her that she might forward it to you. I believe you will be interested in its contents.


-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), July 04, 2000.


I am not trying to sell anything here but I pass on my pain experience FWIW. A year ago I developed an excruriating facial pain that was finally diagbosed as something called Trigeminal Neuralgia. At first a medication tegretol was prescribed. The tegretol helped significantly for several weeks and then the TN pain returned worse than ever. They wanted to increase the Tegretol but I refused because there had been many dangerous side efects with that med. I had not been warned of the possibility of any side effects, either by docs or pharmacists.

So what happened next? Well, I knew 2 other people who had had TN. They both suffered with it for years untill having surgery. So I had the surgery right away. It worked. My jaw didn't work after the surgery but at least the pain was gone. $ months of PT and the jaw functios acceptably now. Another potential side efect was facial numbness. That did not happen.

My only point here is to pass on my experience that in my case surgey did work

God bless

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 04, 2000.


As soon as I saw your post (a half hour ago), I went into my e-mail and forwarded what you referred to right to Luna C, with a note from myself.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 04, 2000.

Luna C,

I can sympathize with your nightmare journey through the modern medical system. When my daughter was born and her problems became apparent, my wife and I needed answers to many questions.

We knew going in that we wouldn't get any miracles. We didn't ask for any. I can't tell you how many tests we turned down, after we asked exactly how the test results would change the therapy and were told that it wouldn't change anything they were already doing!

My observation has been that the rarest commodity in medicine is the ability to diagnose correctly. We've only met one doctor who had any real talent for diagnosis at all. Without a correct diagnosis, they are just shooting in the dark, treating symptoms ignorantly. And it sure shows, doesn't it?

Even when they do have a clue what the source of the problem is, oftentimes all they have to offer in the way of solutions are crude, uncertain and only minimally effective.

However, they are very good at cutting and sewing. Our experience has been that any problem that can be reliably solved by whacking at some part of your interior with a scalpel and sewing the remaining pieces back together again, then you are in luck. They do this sort of thing excellently well.

I think that's why they like it so much, even when surgery does not present a very reliable cure, it has so much prestige that the answer to everything becomes, let's cut it apart and sew it back up. Then the patient knows they really did something. They have the scar to prove it.

I wish you the best in your struggle. You are making excellent decisions as far as I can see.

P.S. To all those who praised my earlier message to LunaC: I don't want to seem ungrateful, but I damn well wish I could have sent that message by email and avoided putting it in front of all your eyes. (I didn't know that eve could forward stuff to LunaC. I know now.) I meant what I said there. It is what I believe. I would prefer if it could be left at that. Thanks.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), July 04, 2000.

Thank you, eve. Much appreciated.

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), July 04, 2000.

For those returning from vacation...to the top

-- - (Samaritan@work.now), July 05, 2000.

Brian - Without a correct diagnosis, they are just shooting in the dark, treating symptoms ignorantly. And it sure shows, doesn't it?

As for the traditional docs' inability to properly diagnose, I have often fantasized about starting a grass-roots patients' movement to refuse payments to doctors who MISdiagnose and/or do not present an effective treatment. Why should patients be required to pay huge fees for mediocre, inept and sometimes downright negligent services? Certainly we wouldn't pay a contractor for building a crooked wall to fix an electrical problem, nor would we pay a mechanic for installing new tires when the engine needed tuning. With the current system in place there is no financial incentive for doctors to improve their skills or strive for excellence. They're going to get paid whether they help you or kill you, so what do they care? The game is certainly rigged in their favor.

And heaven forbid they actually addressed the CAUSE of the problem! To do so would deprive them of a lifelong sickly patient and a healthy income for themselves. No, no...better to address only the *symptoms* and present a false appearance of health than to jeopardize their livelihood. Again, follow the money.

Lars - You were quite brave to undergo surgery and I'm delighted to hear you're a bona-fide success story! You deserve a high-five! I sincerely hope your good health continues for many decades to come. But the problem with spinal surgery is that it oftentimes creates scar tissue that starts another new round of pain that requires another surgery, then more scar tissue, more surgery, etc. Sometimes the surgery creates worse problems then the patient started with, and that's not a proposition I'm willing to accept.

-- LunaC (Better@home.com), July 05, 2000.

Holy cow! Did anyone see the ABC news report on how doctors are playing God by using advanced technology to resusitate 1 pound "micro-premmies" AGAINST the will of the parents? What the hell is wrong with medical science and ethics in this country?

-- Upset (@ .), July 05, 2000.

Upset - That deserves a thread all its own!

-- LunaC (MedicalEthics@oxymoron.com), July 05, 2000.

If people don't have the right to decide about their own bodies, then you may as well say they have *no* rights.

Who the hell's business but mine if I want to check out tomorrow. On the other hand, if a person wants to wrap his body is cat shit and sealing wax to attempt to relieve an ailment, then who the hell has the right to tell him he can't.

I had a hearing problem and was sent to a University hospital for tests. Some idiot screwed up and I I was told I had a massive infection. They gave me enough shots to kill a horse. I went to another doctor as soon as I escaped, he did the tests over. I had no infection. Doctors, lawyers and realtors; the scum of the universe.

-- gilda (jess@listbot.com), July 05, 2000.


You say that youre not willing to take the chances of surgery, but think about suicide daily. I think you should have the surgery. The chances of things going wrong are just that-chances. In 1991, I had surgery on my back. I had been in so much pain, it's really hard to describe just how bad it was. I couldn't sleep, sit, shower or bathe, lie etc without being in excrutiating agony. My 8 year old child was pretty much taking care of me. I was afraid, but I had the surgery. I will never forget waking from anesthesia and feeling NO PAIN, except for the slight pain from the surgery itself which paled in comparison to the back and sciatic pain I had been "living" with. If your quality of life is so low that you think about dying, what could you possible have to lose? Sometimes you just have to blindly trust someone. And I know it's frightening.

-- cin (cin@cin.cin), July 06, 2000.

Oh I forgot to mention...

It's been almost 9 years now and I have occasional flare-ups where I am in bed for a few days, but NOTHING like it was. If anything, the work that I am continuing to do, which is very physically strenuous is what seems to aggravate and cause flareups. But I would have the surgery again in a heartbeat.

-- cin (cin@cin.cin), July 06, 2000.

Cin - Thanks for your comments and another success story. You and Lars have certainly beat the odds. More power to 'ya!

The docs I've seen most recently had moved away from further investigating the biomechanical problem and were stuck on proving that I have some type of autoimmune problem. (NOT!) Other than the first doc who wanted to do surgery on a ruptured disk that didn't exist, none of them have even suggested surgery. Even though I have the classic symptoms of SI Joint Dysfunction, it isn't something that shows up on x-rays or MRI's so, therefore, in the docs minds, it doesn't exist. Never mind that this is a weight-bearing problem, never mind that they have no explanation for the S1 nerve impingement, never mind that I recently experimented with pool therapy and had 20 glorious pain-free minutes last week while floating and successfully decompressing the nerves. They're off on a new tangent and (sigh) just won't listen to reason and get back on the right track. Surgery isn't even a consideration on their agenda. Someone else had mentioned surgery and my earlier comments were responding to that.

However, even if surgery was something on the table for consideration, with what I've seen of their (in)competence, I still wouldn't trust them. If I'm going to leave the planet, it's going to be on MY terms, not theirs.

With the success of the pool experiment last week, some of my friends are now scouting around for one of those huge therapy balls so I can work on decompressing the nerves outside of the water. Unless, of course, I can figure out a way to sprout gills. -g-

-- LunaC (StillHurtin@pain.com), July 07, 2000.

Dear Luna,

I'm pretty much a lurker on the forum, though I don't really even get out here to lurk that much. I just happened to stop by today and look in the new answers section and started reading some of the posts hit and miss.

Everyone's pain is different, so I won't presume that my situation was as bad as yours. It may have been better in some ways. It may have been worse in some ways. I have come to believe that pain is not merely a level of intensity, but rather a function of intensity vs. duration.

I can definitely say, "I hear you" with regards to the frustration with the medical profession. And I love the idea of Drs. not getting paid unless they actually help the patient.

I'll relate some of my story here-- it's long. And I'll try to hit just the high points. LOL. As you read, keep in mind that right now I am so incredibly better and without pain that when I think about what I went through I sometimes can't believe how bad things were.

There were times throughout my situation where I just wanted to die. I had a relatively minor car accident in 1984. My neck never felt quite right afterward, but I was also in college at the time and didn't have adequate health insurance to get things checked out. I "put up" with it. It was a constant irritation at best. And it seemed to be getting worse as time went on. When I got medical coverage through a job (Fall 1988) I got on the medical merry-go-round to try to find what was wrong. And the neck continued to get worse.

I was classified as a chronic pain patient. Not a good classification if you ever want a medical professional to take you seriously. I have probably been on every nsaid and anti-depressant in the book. Along the way I was diagnosed with what I'll call "alphabet soup syndrome" - don't do the acronym. Included were Fibromyalgia (FMS), Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) and TMJ. There were others.

To complicate matters further, I also developed a problem with right side abdominal pain during the problems with my neck. I guess that took about 6 years for them to discover a tennis-ball sized adrenal tumor (benign). Of course, that wasn't what was causing the pain. But I digress.

Back to the neck. It took about 5 years of hoop-jumping to get a referral to a neurologist. Thankfully, this doctor happened to be compassionate and dedicated. There was an MRI done and discovery of 3 protruding discs. We worked for another 2 1/2 years to try to find the "right" medication. But my neck just continued to hurt more and more. Physical Therapy and traction, TENS unit, modified yoga, psychologist referrals, chiropractic, pain clinic. You name it, I probably did it. But if there was _any_ relief, it was always only temporary.

I asked about another MRI. By this time I had tried the patience even of my one gem of a doctor. Somehow he decided to go along. The new diagnosis was of 1 protruded disc still, and with 2 herniated discs compressing on the spinal column. Referred back to the pain clinic to see if a nerve block would help.

The first time I was at the pain clinic (this is not the type where you go and stay for awhile, but rather one where they do nerveblocks and so forth) that Dr. said it was all in my head. Most of the drs. I had seen said it was all in my head. Okay, okay. ALL but one of the drs. I had seen had said it was all in my head... ;-) This time around the dr. went ahead with the nerveblock. It didn't help and in fact it made the related pain in my arms/hands _worse_.

The next referral was to a surgeon. Believe it or not it was an orthopedic surgeon rather than a neurosurgeon. Like you my list of remaining options was growing slimmer and the tried & failed list was huge. Sometimes you get to a point where you are almost afraid to take anything more from the slim list and try it because at least while there's a slim list there you can feign hope. A little. Yet I felt desperate and decided to have the surgery. This is now Fall of 1996.

Now this is not going to be one of those 'surgery fixed it all' cases. I thought I should say that up front before I continue...

I woke up from the surgery feeling _great_. My hands weren't feeling numb. My neck didn't hurt. It was incredible. I had to wear a brace for 6 weeks and probably the happiest day of my life was the day the brace came off and I still felt great! For a few days, until I happened to get into the car and had to bend my head sideways and the pain started to creep it's way back. I wasn't worried the first day or two, because there'd been a few twinges here and there, and they'd gone away again. But after several days I found myself calling the surgeon's office. I honestly don't recall the response I got, but by a month later when I was sitting in the exam room for the 2 month post op check up I was left absolutely devastated when he said that I was "overreacting" and "obsessed" about it. He gave me a referral back to PT.

Three more months later he was saying that I had waited too long to have the surgery and now I had permanent damage to the spinal cord.

In the meantime I had also contacted a chiropractor whom I had heard really good things about but was a good distance from my home. She agreed to see me and go through my history. The good thing was she believed me and felt she could help. The bad thing (to me) was she wouldn't work on my neck area for at least one year post-surgery. So I began to see her for my other back problems and in late Fall of 1997 she began to work in the neck area. I started to see improvement. I started to have pain relief.

I'm not relating this as a blanket endorsement of chiropractors in general. Throughout this whole process I had seen a number of chiropractors. Some were fine and I would get temporary relief. And as frustrating as temporary relief was, it was still always better than none at all. Then there were some who weren't very good at all. And then there is the one I see now. Who is so good that I regret any previous chiropractor endorsements I gave to friends and co-workers.

I also can't completely disregard the surgery, because I don't know whether without it I would have been helped as much by the chiropractic. If I had to do over again, though, I think I would have tried this particular chiropractor first and go from there.

I apologize for the length of this. I've tried to keep it abbreviated- - and believe me there's a lot I've left out. It was truly horrible. Pain saps your heart and soul and hope. It gnaws away at your resolve and feasts on dreams. It entices the mind to pursue any avenue of escape.

I can't pinpoint an exact date to say that I've been pain-free since ____. But I would say most of the last two years have been pretty decent. Really decent, in fact. The 12 or so years before that (which basically comprised a 1/3 of my life) were pretty crummy. And I can be extremely grateful that I'm still around to enjoy this absence of pain.

I hope and pray that you'll be able to say the same soon.

-- Take Heart (noaddress@this.time), July 07, 2000.

Take Heart - I appreciate that you came out of lur-mode to share you story. I can tell that you've unquestionably "walked a mile in my shoes". Both you and Anita have had excellent results with chiropractors so staying with my Dynamic Duo (Rolfer/chiro) is probably my best, my only hope.

I'm very grateful for your sharing and words of encouragement. Thank you!

-- LunaC (makeitstop@home.com), July 09, 2000.

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