An Authentic, Sometimes Gritty, and Always Hopeful Blog for All Who Live with Severe Physical Pain

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Story Because You Asked: How and When Pain Entered My Life

The Colemans circa 2005
So many people ask me how my pain journey all began.  So, here goes: 

Paradise Lost

Severe, soul-crunching pain slipped invisibly into my life without warning, early in the morning of September 6, 2005. The blitzkreig had been in the makings for weeks, however, put into the works by a mysterious germ I picked up while vacationing with my family in Jamaica a month earlier.  Ironically, I had viewed this vacation as a turning point in my life, as I had reached the ending mark of a difficult two year period, I had come to call my season of “trials, tragedies and mishaps”.  I was now certain God was about to do a “new and special thing” in my life.  I never imagined that “new and special thing” would not be exciting, fun, or make me wildly popular.

On the third day of that vacation in paradise, I was struck down with what I thought was the “Caribbean Crud”, the bane of tourists, as we are unaccustomed to the island cuisine. When I was still sick after 24 hours,  however, I knew it was something else, because my symptoms were much different, including a very high fever that wouldn’t break.  On the third day,  my husband procured a private physician to make a house call ($$$).  The doctor said he didn’t know what to make of it, and left  me with an antibiotic he said should take care of whatever it was.  
Yeah, kind of like that.

I slowly began to feel better, although I remained tired and continued to have intermittent fevers for three weeks. I also experienced strange aftermaths such as feeling “shivers” across the right side of my head (deep inside, not outside); not having my right eye blink in sync with my left one when I was tired; and all my moles turned bright red! 

 By September, feeling back to my energetic self, and now having taken both sons to college, and helping my daughter get ready for her new school year too, I was now eager to begin my “new year”, as we mothers know September to be.

Horrific Pain

The day after Labor Day, I was sitting down with a fresh cup of coffee, my 8 1/2 by 11” Daytimer opened to the crisp September calendar page, plus a set of colored pens, ready to get organized. Lifting the coffee cup to my lips for that first relished sip, a jolt of electrocution-like pain, ripped through the right side of my face, mostly in my upper right gum area. Following this shocking jolt, it finished with a sense of deep, hot-poker like burning in the same area, and up along the side of my nose. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced.

The pain lasted for less than ten seconds. Somehow, I had managed to hold onto my coffee cup without spilling it, and was grateful for that, at least. Setting it down, I made my way to the bathroom mirror where I probed inside my mouth, around my teeth, lips and gums, trying to find the source of the pain. Nothing. I sat down and prayed for a few minutes, asking God for protection and a trusting heart. When the pain did not return after about 20 minutes, I returned to my calendar planning, albeit sans coffee!

By day’s end, I had suffered three more  “attacks” as I came to call them. By the end of that first week I was spending most of my time in bed, either trembling in agony from an attack or else cowering in fear of the next one that was sure to come I’m not sure which is worse, frankly. 

An Illness Worse than Death? 

Five weeks, and four doctors later, I finally had an answer. “Judi,” Dr. Martin began. “I hate to tell you that I know what you have.  It’s called ‘Trigeminal Neuralgia’”

My brain immediately flooded with hope. All I heard was that my pain finally had a name! I looked up to Dr. Martin, my first smile in weeks giving way.

Meeting his concerned expression, my smile fizzled. Wondering what I had missed, I tried to mentally push the rewind button in my brain. Before I could do so, Dr. Martin continued, “I think the virus you picked up in Jamaica, traveled to your brain and damaged your trigeminal nerve. This nerve is one of your cranial nerves that lies in the center of your brain. It controls facial sensations. Your brain is mistaking light sensations for a painful and severe assault.”  

He paused, dropping his voice to almost a whisper,  “It’s a rare disorder, Judi, and the news isn’t good.”  

I stared at him, trying to wrap my mind around what he was saying. I had a hard time making the transition from being relieved that my pain was “real”, to learning that it was something awful. It was such a difficult moment for me, that I guess I had one of those out-of-body experiences I didn’t think were real.

 Time seemed to stop as I pictured the scene as though I was standing a few feet away.  I saw myself sitting in the examining chair, and watched as Dr. Martin moved it to the upright position. Then, he pulled his round stool up beside me and touched me lightly on the forearm (though I didn’t feel it from where I watched), a gesture of comfort. There was even a glistening of tears in his eyes, which made me feel very sorry for the woman sitting there. It took a moment for me to remember that she was me. That’s when the weird out-of-body thing ended.

Now, with all of me back in the examining chair, (...It’s sounding even weirder typing this story...I’m wanting to leave this part outHelp me, Lord, because you called me to be totally authentic, despite the fact that some will see me as a crazy woman!) I took a deep breath, looked up into Dr. Martin’s kind face and asked him what I knew I must,   “Is it fatal?”

His answer changed me. As though in that instant my cells became rearranged.  The person I was before that time, would no longer be me, after he spoke the following:

No, but you might wish that it was.”

That was in 2005.  

Now the calendar has turned to 2014.  It's been a wild ride for sure. The worst of the worst I could have ever imagined. And the best of the best. I am a different person and will never go back to that other Judi, even if I were suddenly healed tomorrow.

I don't want to go back to her. I've gained too much in this journey. 

I’ve learned a whole lot through the years...good things.. life-changing things.  I now love the Lord with my whole heart, mind and strength, although there are times I run from Him. I've learned other things too...practical things to help  others. 

So, that's the gist of my story.  Hope it resonates with you, and somehow encourages you that you are not alone, and that living with pain is possible.

God Bless You!



  1. Judi~~Taking that LONG walk back to share with all of us how your own journey with Horrible Pain began had to be difficult-but you did it with grace, clarity, heart-breaking honesty & Strength--I applaud you for "Opening the Window" so we could all look inside and gain a tiny glimmer of what happens when CHRONIC PAIN drops into your life and turns everything you once knew as "normal" now has been turned upside down as you fight an invisible FOE.

    I have walked my own Road of Pain for 18 years-- My story is "painfully simple" ~~~climbed up a tree-cutting limbs down, felt so successful that I decided to climb higher, and I recall everything growing very quiet, no breeze--and then it happened. I do recall screaming "God help me" and then my Butt met the ground with a thundering sound--I tried to stand up, and that is when I met PAIN--up close.. I stayed quiet about the fall, but had to tell my husband three months later when I wokeup and all the toes on my Left Foot were NUMB--Scar Tissue was wrapped around a very damaged Sciatic Nerve... I have wished long and hard for a "Do-Over" but that is not going to happen, and I have been through Too many Operations to remove Scar Tissue (it grew back after just three weeks) and Surgery for a device implanted in my spine to help with the Pain--almost dying from a massive Staph Infection.

    My Pain is constant--I wake up with it, live with it all day and go to bed with it--but it has NOT taken all of me down! I made my mind up a long time ago that Pain could not have all of me and found my motto 'Pain Won't Beat Me". Oh yes there have been major downs through the years and finding my way back Up has always been hard, but I reach for the hand of God and hold on tight. Sometimes I can pray about the Pain I live with and other times, all I can utter is
    "Oh Please God, help me!"

    Life is precious--whether we live with Pain or never have to face the nightmare it brings--but there is still so much JOY to be found and so I try hard to keep a calm outlook, pray as I can, and one of the most helpful things to do is turn my Prayers toward Others! We all need Prayer and its a true blessing to know others are praying when we have no strength left inside us to do it. I pray for you Judi--I pray for a friend of mine-Charlie--a dear man who suffers horribly with Pain and yet carries it with such grace. I have also been so blessed to have my husband beside me--and I want to find moments of laughter with him--we have to work at it, but its possible. Thank you for letting me share my story Judi-I pray some of my words can help another--there IS LIFE in spite of PAIN!!! Thank God for that wonderful fact!

    Bless you Judi! I am thrilled to see the goals you are trying to set and PRAY we can all help each other.

    Love you my dear friend... martha

  2. Your pain is so HUGE; the only thing bigger than your pain, is your even HUGER (not a word…but I like it anyway) GRACE to count your blessings. Amazing…what encouragement for us all. Thank you, Martha!

  3. Judi~ I love the "new" word---HUGER!! Sometimes we can't find words to describe Pain but that one is a keeper!

    I am praying hard for you and all those who suffer with Pain--this next major Weather System rapidly approaches and hope God will shield you from the worst of it. Also I am so touched by your loving words. Blessings to you.

    1. Yep! Totally messing up my writing of my next post! And, you should see my house--looks like some kind of frat house--can't focus on anything. Am drawing and painting though..

  4. Thank you for sharing from the heart! It's so hard to go back and relive the moments that brought our pain. I had forgotten all of the details about how your pain began. You encourage me when I see how you hold on to your faith in spite of all that you have endured. I find that many days my faith is all that keeps me going. I know that He has a purpose for us even in our suffering. I so look forward to your next blogs that you mentioned.
    Martha, I appreciate your comments and find them also inspiring.
    Judi, keep writing! May God bless you as you encourage those of us in pain.

    1. I've heard from many (via emails…) how much they appreciated reading more of my story than what I include in the "Why This Blog".

      How very true…what would we do without the Lord. Here's the first through lines from an old hymn, "Old Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go" that give me great comfort as they speak to many truths in the Word. (Since I wasn't raised in the church…and cannot read music, I have made up my own tune. If you do know the tune, I hope it is a sweet one:)

      O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,

      That in thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer, fuller be.

      O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,

      That morn shall tearless be.

      Many prayers for you, Ginigirl, particularly if you are struggling with this cold snap!

  5. I so appreciate all these comments. I am praying for u all. Sue

  6. Thanks for writing, Sue. I pray you felt comfort knowing you are not alone.