I Am Pro Zohydro

I am pro Zohydro, a new potent, hydrocodone-based, extended-release painkiller, because I am in so much pain, so much of the time.

I am pro Zohydro because there are so many days when I wake up and I’m literally in too much pain to open up a laptop and read my work emails. And I’m in too much pain to talk on the phone, watch TV, or take a shower.

Do you know what that’s like? To avoid taking a shower because you are in too much pain to stand up long enough to wash your hair? I do.

I am pro Zohydro because the pain on my right side shoots through me like a constant stream of agony and defeat. Because it feels like someone reached past my skin, and my blood vessels, and grabbed the last two bones in my right ribs and snapped them in half.

And somehow, at the same time, it feels like someone just dropped a cinder block on my chest and then whacked me with a baseball bat to make sure it hurt.

I am pro Zohydro because its sister drug Norco has helped me so much. It has given me moments of my life back. It has taken my pain away just enough for me to pretend that I might even be well.

It has allowed me to go to a Cubs games with my boyfriend, to go shopping with my sister and my mom, and to go to candy shows with my boss. It has allowed me to keep my job, take showers and, on particularly bad days, walk from the couch to the kitchen. It even kept me alive during my last mission trip as a youth leader. I wouldn’t trade that trip for my life.

I am pro Zohydro because my chronic pain has been like a vicious black alien that slithered out of the night sky and attached itself to my ribs, only to suck the life out of my body, a little more each day.

It has left me for dead, on the door steps of suicide, ready to end it all, and the only thing that has saved my life has been the pain pills from the merciful doctors who try to understand how horrible my chronic pain really is.

I am pro Zohydro because there’s a chance it could help me. There’s a chance it could give me a slice of my life back. And even if it can’t give me a slice of my life back, maybe it can give someone else a slice of their life back.

I am pro Zohydro because chronic pain really is that bad. Because I don’t just wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by semi-truck once in a while, the way people in the land of the well do when they have the flu, maybe once or twice year. For me, it’s not once in a while. It’s every day.

I can’t just call in sick to life whenever I feel like someone just stabbed me 27 times with a butcher knife. So, instead, every single day I have to pull myself out of the sheets, and lift off the covers, which tend to feel like they weigh 49 pounds, and I have to drag myself out of bed and face the world and try to function.

I have to live my life every single day, despite the fact that I’m literally in enough pain that I want to go to the emergency room all the time. But I know there is sometimes relief available. And that relief is opioid drugs. And if Zohydro is that drug for me or anyone else, I want them to have access to it.

I am pro Zohydro because 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and they deserve hope. They deserve advances in medicine. They deserve cutting-edge treatments, advocates and support. And they deserve new drugs just like anyone else suffering from any other medical condition.

I am pro Zohydro because it will help people. Yes, I worry about those who may become addicted to it. And yes, I even worry that I will be among them. But more than that, I worry that one day, in the dark of night, I will no longer be able to bear the insane amount of pain in my  ribs, grab a knife and slit my wrists, and finally find the relief I so desperately search for.

I am pro Zohydro because I would rather find that relief from a prescription.

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Gaining Weight While in Pain

I wish I could title this column, “How I Lost Weight While in Pain.”

I wish that’s what this was about. I wish I had already figured out how.

Unfortunately, all I have right now is the question. How the heck are you supposed to lose weight while dealing with chronic, excruciating pain on a daily basis?

See, the thing is, it’s not like the pain itself made me gain weight. I mean, yeah, soon after it started I gave up all physical activity unless I was running from zombies to save my life. But that alone didn’t equal a higher dress size. In fact, after about three months of laying on the couch in agony, I was pleasantly surprised to see on the scale at my neurologist’s office that my weight was only about four pounds higher than when everything started.

Alas, that’s also right around the time when I got put on every single nerve pain, opioid and regular pain medication that they make, all of which list “weight gain” as a possible side effect.

At first, I didn’t even notice that “weight gain” was right there on the list of possible things that could happen to me. And my silly doctors didn’t bother to take five seconds to say, “Hey, this might make you pack on the pounds.”

So I just started popping all the pills like candy and going about my business. And I swear to you, it was as if I woke up one day 50 pounds heavier.

I’m not even joking. That’s what happened. I gained 50 pounds in like five days. And suddenly none of my clothes fit, I hated how I looked in every photo, and on top of the whole horrible daily pain thing, I also suddenly had to deal with random crazy weight gain.

The problem is, the stupid pills actually do help me. I’m not going to go so far as to say they “work” because it’s not like I have my life back. But I will say that they allow me to live my life with an amount of pain that leaves me less suicidal than I was before I started taking the drugs. Plus, they allow me to continue working without crying in agony.

They do not, however, allow me to exercise in any way. Seriously. Even walking still makes me feel like I’m being stabbed. And don’t even start to say the word “yoga” because that crap might as well be called “twist and turn on a bed of nails” for what it does to my ribs.

The meds also make my feet swell up if I so much as walk a mile. Seriously. The doctor tried to tell me that was impossible, that my feet should only swell up if I’m eating a lot of salt or standing in one place, and it has nothing to do with the meds.

But I promise you that they swell up when I walk, even if I’m downing water and avoiding sodium. And it never happened even one time before I started taking six different prescription medications on a daily basis.

Of course, a lack of exercise alone isn’t enough to make me gain 50 pounds. For that, the medications have a special side effect: They induce hunger. And, now, despite the fact that I spent the first three decades of my life trying to eat only when I’m hungry, all that work is basically pointless. I’m always hungry.

Add to that the fact that I’m pretty sure the meds also slow down your metabolism — and it’s not just impossible for me to lose weight, it’s impossible for me to maintain my weight.

Of course, the world doesn’t know this. They don’t get the nuance. They have no idea that I’m struggling against all these factors and that I really do notice every single pound I gain. They just look at me, scan my body, see that I’m overweight, and judge away.

I can feel it in the eyes of friends and family. I constantly stress that everyone is talking about it the second I leave the room. And I wonder if the people I meet in my professional life are suddenly taking me less seriously.

Even doctors are guilty. I had one doctor who had no idea how to deal with my rib pain, but she did take my appointment as an opportunity to lecture me on my weight. Something about fruits and vegetables and finding an exercise that doesn’t hurt.

I wanted to scream, “IT WAS DOCTORS WHO MADE ME THIS WAY!’

I mean, yes, deep down, I know I’m not completely innocent in all of this. I know that the daily struggle to live through the chronic pain makes it that much more likely that I’ll reach for a chocolate bar or a can of Coke to cope.

But with so many other factors working against me, it’s like I’m doomed to see a higher number on the scale every week, regardless of whether I skip the pop or not.

So, here I am, 60 pounds heavier than I was before I got sick. I wear stretch leggings way too often, I focus in on my face for all my photos, and I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

I will say though, that the only thing worse than gaining weight, is being in pain without pain pills.

So, alas, it looks like I’m stuck, at least for now.


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