The past two weeks have been filled with many ups and downs related to my lung cancer but the one constant has been intense and at times debilitating pain. It was the pain I was experiencing that led me to push for scans two weeks ago and that pain increased exponentially over the ensuing days. The causes were unknown—possibilities ranged from disease progression to bone necrosis to bone rebuilding following last fall’s radiation. At various times I was told each of these was the root—an emotional roller coaster for sure. Most interesting was the fact that while the pain sensations remained constant, I perceived them to be greater or lesser depending on whether I deemed the pain rooted in a “good” or “bad” cause. When I was told it was cancer progression I immediately imagined the cancer eating away at my body and my perception of the pain intensified along with my anxiety. When I was told the pain was caused by the bone rebuilding itself and creating inflammation in the process I imagined my body healing itself and the pain became infinitely more bearable. In other words, my brain heavily influenced my pain.
Thankfully, my mindfulness coach reminded me to bring my pain back to the sensory level by observing it non-judgmentally as merely a sensation. This is a technique I had used with great success when I was initially diagnosed and was experiencing painful bone metastasis. The idea is not that you meditate the pain away, but that you do not heighten the sensation by superimposing fear and negative thoughts on it. You can read more about this type of pain management at https://mindfulness-for-pain.mindful.org/2019/10/28/mindfulness-and-pain-what-the-research-tells-us/. Though I do my best to experience all events in my life with equanimity (without attaching a label of good or bad), I have to say I was overjoyed to hear ultimately that my cancer is stable and my pain due to inflammation related to bone rebuilding. Though I tend to resist taking any nonessential medication, I was put on an anti-inflammatory a few days ago and my pain is greatly reduced. God is good. Life is good.
With love and gratitude, Isabella