I was 24 when I developed recurrent acute pancreatitis. Around the same time I was also diagnosed with polyarticular spondylising arthritis. The conditions arose out of nowhere and the pain has had a big impact on my life.
Inflammation of my pancreas results in severe abdominal pain. The arthritic pain is all over my body. I’ve been in and out of hospital every month or so for the past 18 months. Most upsetting is the effect on my hands.
I play the piano and ukulele and I’ve been learning the guitar and violin. But I can’t even consider playing unless my pain is under control.
The pain and hospital stays have also made certain aspects of study difficult, but I haven’t given up and I look forward to completing my studies.
Some of my friends have been supportive but others don’t understand. They do very physically intense activities like rock climbing and bushwalking. I can’t do those things but usually a compromise can be found.
I’ve had periods of depression and I have anxiety not knowing what is making me sick or what the future will hold. I worry about whether I’ll ever get the pain under control and how it will affect the rest of my life.
My GP manages my treatments and has been one of my biggest supporters. When the pain specialist told him he thought the pain was all in my head, he didn’t listen. I’m grateful for that.
I’m currently on a cocktail of medications, including opioids. They are effective for me but only up to a point and need a lot of tweaking.
I also use non-medicine approaches. I do simple non-strenuous exercise, meditation and relaxation every day and I maintain a healthy diet.
It can be hard, but I try to embrace the challenge and find creative solutions to my problems. All in all, I feel lucky that things aren’t worse and that I have so much support from friends and family.
In the future I’d like to sacrifice less of my life to the pain. I’m looking forward to working in the health industry and I know I’ll understand when patients tell me they have pain.