Finding victory in spite of chronic pain

Learning to celebrate the positive instead of focusing on the negative

Last week, I had an appointment with my urologist. I hadn’t seen him for a year. A year! I had called in with one issue in that entire year and that was pretty quickly resolved.

When I was at my appointment, I realized I don’t know most of the staff any more. I used to know them by name and even some personal life information from some of them.

My doctor and I talked about how my medicine I’ve been taking for a long time still seems to be hanging in there and working for me. We smiled together about how nice it was to have a quick and easy appointment where I mostly just got refills for my prescriptions.

It hasn’t always been that way. About 17 years ago, I first started going to this urologist. We were both younger back then. I was miserable, though. He worked with me on all sorts of different treatments. I’ve tried so very many things through the years. At one point, he told me I’d reach the limit of what he knew to do, and he would suggest another urologist in a larger city.

At yet another point I saw a urologist a state and four hours away who did help me as well. But, my local urologist has been my main go-to guy for my interstitial cystitis for almost two decades. And being able to see him once a year right now and not be miserable going into his office is a blessing.

The thing about IC, like with most chronic pain conditions, is that it can wax and wane. Just because my symptoms are mostly under control right now doesn’t mean it will always be this way. Right now I have to take my medicine and be careful of my dietary trigger foods, but otherwise, my bladder issues are pretty stinking good most days. (Truthfully, right now my biggest issue is my fibromyalgia symptoms.)

I could focus on how it could all come back full force any moment. Or I could think about how the surgery I had a year and a half ago could undo itself any minute (which is a definite possibility). But I have learned through the years to take the wins when they happen. Focusing on the negative facts of my health takes away from the joy of the positive facts. Because of those hard times and really difficult days I appreciate the good ones all the more.

Combine this good appointment with attending the annual meeting of the American Urological Association earlier this month on assignment for IC Optimist magazine and IC has been on my mind even more than usual lately. Though I’ve gone to these meetings before, it had been about a decade since I was last able to go. I’ve been processing all I learned and writing about it over the last couple of weeks.

I was reminded there are lots of doctors who really, truly care about IC patients and helping us get answers and feel better. I was also reminded, though, about how bad IC can get as I heard different struggles with studies and treatments. I have been at some of those really bad points and there are other really bad points with IC that I haven’t been to.

All of that combined to make me feel incredibly grateful as I walked out of my urology appointment last week. I tucked my appointment card with an appointment a year away in my pocket. I am thankful. I may not be able to wait yet another year until I go back to see my urologist. Or I may. I have another appointment next month with a urogynecologist in Michigan to follow up with him from my surgery a year and a half ago. I don’t anticipate bad news at that appointment, but I can’t predict the future.

I just know the now. The now isn’t perfect. Pain free days don’t really happen thanks to my fibro, but there are many low-pain days. There are days that I don’t give my bladder much extra thought, and I am so incredibly thankful for them and blessed by them. That is victory in chronic pain and illness!

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