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The latest new issue to surface is a sharp, stabbing pain near the inferior border of my left lung Figure 2. This has been accompanied by mild swelling and numbness near the skin surface, which is coincidentally where radiation tattoos used to guide my prior spleen therapy can be seen.

The pain started just over a week ago and has been getting progressively worse. Nonetheless, an X-ray of my chest was taken to rule out a possible rib fracture that could have been caused by any one of my severe coughing attacks associated with the radiation pneumonitis. However, the X-ray came back clean with no sign of fracture. In the absence of a fracture or cancer progression, other conditions could explain this new pain. One example is costochondritis, an inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs join with the cartilage that holds them to the breastbone.

Or the pain, numbness, and swelling could be late effects from prior radiation to the spleen. To further support that the new pain is related to an inflammatory condition, we monitored the response to increased steroids anti-inflammatory agents.

Additionally, I was prescribed mg gabapentin twice daily, as it can help treat neuropathic pain. I took my first pill last night. When I got out of bed today, I noticed that the rib pain was gone.

Taking the journey from the battlefield: Do metaphors help or hinder pain management? — Pain-Ed

The big question remains—what caused the pain in the first place? And did the double steroid dose eliminate the pain, or did the gabapentin play a role? Toward love. Toward others. I need a reminder that my truest self is meant to hold up and be held up by my brothers and sisters around this beautiful earth. I need a reminder that we belong to each other and to the same God. I know Ecuador will steal a piece of my heart. I look forward to taking you all along this journey with me. Into an orphanage, a leprosy community, into a small-town emergency department. An awakening, a sleeping, and all the parts that make up a day in between.

Lifting a spoon to the mouth, a dumbbell to the chest, a curly-haired pup to the cheek. Because in the past, I am always a creator. Rarely a consumer. I have always breathed from a place of frenetic, creative energy and these days, well, these days…. The canvas sits atop the easel, unfinished, untouched, the water evaporating away leaving brittle, lonely brushes. My desktop is littered with half-effort writings and I neither finish nor drag them to the trash.

The kitchen, once a place of testing and tasting and falling in love is a place where protein, carbohydrates, and fats are consumed.

The Journey to Healing

I go for a run and only a mile in, it starts to rain. I watch it fall, splatter against the ground. The cold penetrates deep into my bones, drops fall from eyelashes. He grins up at me. I grin back. I think of all the creative ways I will describe this moment later and now the words are falling flat, lifeless against this paper.


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I find a new artist. There is darkness and light, neglect and nurturing, angst and hope found within it. I see it is sold.

34 Surprising Causes of Pain

I hope it finds its way onto a wall where few will see it but those that do, will see with intention. I turn to my Bible. The thin pages are stuck together, like my faith, all bound up in anxious murmurings. She knows. I know. This thinness of life is caused by a thinness of faith. A doctor at work notices the thinness. She gives me a bite-sized cookie wrapped in a Kleenex with a note of encouragement.

I walk past later to thank her but I see her standing at the foot of the bed, someone pushing against the chest of another, the monitor flat-lined on the wall.

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Days begin. Days end. One week blurs into another. I need the rain to stop. I need the snow to start. I need the sun to shine. It has snowed since I wrote this.

I was out for a jog when it started. The tiny flakes bounced off my cheeks, my eyelids, and I focused on keeping my eyes open, feeling the way their cold startled my corneas. I think about the rain, while he talks. I think about the snow, the paintbrushes warped by sitting in water too long, my dog running in rain. Me, here on this earth, doing all these things and not knowing why, sometimes, it all feels a bit lacking.

I think about the thinness to life and I realize that a thinness of faith is remedied by acknowledging the greatness of God. Last night, at work, there was the thinness again, another heartbeat flat-lined on the monitor. I watch the airway snaked down through the vocal cords. I see the tubes placed near the chest. The liquid life dripping away from the arms. I see the pushing and pounding against the chest, this final attempt to bring back the tired. I stand back.

This thinness of life?

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Maybe its not over. We love what we do, most days. We love your stories, how you brought your pet squirrel, now dead, into our rooms to see if we could test its brain for rabies. We love hearing your trampoline and alcohol story. Or how you took the time to pack two full suitcases before calling because you plan on staying a few days. Case closed. Not an emergency if you have time to pack. We have ran with your nearly faceless daughter in our arms to the nearest room when a clay pigeon thrower automatically fired one into her face.

We say these things because these situations are the ones that make a difference in the scope of this one precious life. And in these situations, we are grateful, to the very core of our being, that we get to do what we do. We are committed to you. With empathy and compassion, we do our job and when we go home, sometimes we pull over on our drive because the tears just keep falling and we have lain awake in bed at night and prayed for your children, knowing you left them on this earth when a drunk driver killed you.

You might say we are brave for doing what we do. We were trained to run toward disaster when others run away. Bravery is when we decide to go on living to the fullest after witnessing so many horrific things. Bravery is getting on a motorcycle and blocking out the time brain matter fell on our shoe.

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Bravery is sticking up for the lady with the stammering talk at the party because we can see the way her hands tremble when she reaches for the cake. Bravery is deciding to love people so fiercely while knowing we are all just one phone call away from our knees.


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We need to talk about the increasing violence we are facing. The last week. Think about that. So that nurse who comes into your room and smiles and is kind? Remember to thank them. They likely were just yelled at moments before. In fact, violence happens so frequently that studies show nurses new to the ER are starting to consider it a normal part of their job.