The Cheerful Oncologist

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Most all of us like to receive sound medical advice, even if we have no intention of following it. Perhaps this is why some experts relay information in a style reminiscent of filling the lifeboats of the Titanic. By trumpeting alarums for diseases deemed potentially life-threatening, doctors forget how easy it is to spook the general public. Hey, I’m scared enough as it is – God help my physician if I read a list of symptoms followed by the words “See Your Doctor Immediately!” I might just defenestrate myself to get to the emergency room before some orderly ties a somber tag on my “this little piggy went to market.”

Now comes a list that will curdle the corpuscles of many a hearty soul, not to mention those with a skittish constitution. Read on if you dare.

“7 Pains You Shouldn’t Ignore”
“Experts describe the types of pain that require prompt medical attention”

We all have aches and pains, but when should we start to worry? This WebMD article attempts to distinguish pains that could represent a life-threatening condition, and yessir, they do an efficient job. After reading it I had to curl up in a ball for an hour. I shall list the symptoms as they appear in the story. Here goes:

1. Worst Headache of Your Life
2. Pain or Discomfort in the Chest, Throat, Jaw, Shoulder, Arm, or Abdomen (along with chest pressure, nausea, and for women, bloating, GI distess, discomfort in the abdomen, feeling tired)
3. Pain in Lower Back or Between Shoulder Blades
4. Severe Abdominal Pain
5. Calf Pain (or swelling without pain)
6. Burning Feet or Legs
7. Vague, Combined, or Medically Unexplained Pains (headaches, abdominal pain, limb pain, along with loss of interest, difficulty concentrating)

This is great advice even if it is enough to prompt the cat to dial the vet’s emergency exchange.

Just for the heck of it, see if you can match the medical condition with the pain listed above:

Deep Vein Thrombus
Dissecting Aortic Aneurysm
Depression
Diabolical Myocardial Infarction
Diabetes Mellitus
Deadly Cerebral Aneursym
Dangerous Gallstones, Pancreatitis, Bowel Obstruction, Appendicitis

There’s pain and then there’s PAIN, and those of us who hobble around with various calamities (usually from a stellar career in sports, or inspirational exercising) should heed the advice of the experts and be aware of these serious pains, no matter what kind of dreams they give us.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony P
    January 6, 2008

    Oh yeah, I get the lower lumbar ones all the time. If my spine was straight I’d not have those problems but nature cursed me with a very slight rightward curve of the spine that causes all sorts of hellish pain.

    And not only I have this curious little feature, so too does my father indicating a genetic basis. How charming.

  2. #2 ddx:dx
    January 7, 2008

    I guess my approach to pain is different. I agree that pain is inevitable. It’s meaning is our job to help the patient sort out. Most chronic pain sufferers have developed the wrong interpetation of what the pain means. Their back hurts and they think they need to lay on the couch for a day. Then the next day when it doesn’t hurt they do two days of work that has piled up and then they hurt 2x the next day and are on the couch for 2 days… Downward spiral.
    Instead, activation, muscle training, are much healthier.
    But, I agree there are patterns of pain symptoms that I find significant.
    I would add the pain that wakes one up from otherwise good sleep. I pursue that pain.
    I think the low back pain suggestion made 60% of the population with intermittent low back pain think they were in the <1% with a dissecting aneurysm...
    Pain is there to teach us something. Sometimes it is trying to tell us things we don't want to learn. I thing often doctors know the lesson being offered, but shy away from the anticipated poor reception of bad news.

    http://poemd.blogspot.com/2007/08/avoidance.html

  3. #3 Janne
    January 7, 2008

    Well, #1 I have only ever had once (how could I not?).

    But the other ones – I might as well sell my apartment and pay rent for a gurney in the emergency intake. I probably don’t have many days _without_ lower back pain or pain between the shoulder blades (especially after coding for twelve hours straight, or stressing about an upcoming paper deadline). And if we’re supposed to take “vague or unexplained” pain or “discomfort” together with “feeling tired” or “difficulty concentrating” seriously, I must have been in life-threatening condition since my early teens.

    I _guess_ that what they mean is “Pain”, not “pain” – something far outside of normal everyday experience; something intense enough to cripple you mentally as well as physically. And I _guess_ that “feeling tired” and “difficulty concentrating” is meant in the sense of “semi-unconscious” and “difficulty remembering where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing”, not “post-lunch lethargy” and “keep playing Desktop Tower Defence when I should be working”. But if that’s the case, why describe it in terms of “discomfort” and so on, instead of being clear we’re talking about extraordinary events?

  4. #4 Jennifer
    January 8, 2008

    I have a history of severe pain. Left over adhesions from a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix have caused me years of agony. Recently I passed a kidney stone alone in a hotel room, not knowing what was happening. I just believed it was more ‘gut pain’ the happens every so often. It was only when I started to pass a second one a month later that I went to the ER for help.

    You see, I don’t trust doctors. They are the reason I have the adhesions in the first place. Despite my objections the ruptured appendix was diagnosed as PID.

    I cannot discern my experiences with severe pain when they occur in my abdomen. So how can I know when I am having a serious event?

  5. #5 Dave Briggs
    January 9, 2008

    This list is scary for sure! What might be even scarier is a list of life threatening conditions that exhibit no pain whatsoever.
    Dave Briggs :~)

  6. #6 Mark
    January 19, 2008

    1) Cerebral aneurysm
    2) Myocardial infarction
    3) Aortic dissection
    4) Gallstones et al
    5) Deep vein thrombus
    6) Diabetes
    7) Depression

    Right?