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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

Perception of Pain

I had six Tarlov cysts treated in my sacral spine two weeks ago that had caused me fearful symptoms for a decade. I say that they were treated, because they cannot be removed as nerves run through the sacs full of cerebral spinal fluid. I was fortunate to have found a world renowned surgeon who was brave and creative enough to develop a procedure for relieving the incessant pain and loss of ability for his thousands of patients. He removes part of the lamina, one of the many small bones protecting our strands of nerves in the spinal column, siphons out the cerebral spinal fluid from the nerve sheath that had ballooned into a cyst, then wraps the nerve sheath with a bovine material that restricts the cyst from refilling. He makes sure the nerves are now set as they should be, fills in the hole in the lamina with resorbable material, then seamlessly closes up the incision.

Some patients reported instant relief of symptoms after surgery, other than the pain of having their back opened up. Full recovery is said to take one to three years. I had some relief of pre-operative symptoms, some iffy relief, but found new symptoms; excruciating pain in places I had never had pain before. I would awake with the pain, in tears as I felt my nervous system scream in reproach of having been moved from its unfortunate comfort zone. Prescription pain meds seemed to have no effect. Several nights ago as the pain mounted again, I spoke to myself, to my body. I recorded it and played it on repeat until I drifted off to sleep, not to wake up until I naturally awoke. I have since only taken Advil infrequently.

It had occurred to me that my body thought it was under attack. It misinterpreted the invasion of the surgeon’s scalpel as an attack, when it was a liberation. The void left from the cysts causing deformation of my nerve roots left them wondering what this new, open, scary world was. Is this not how God works? The Master Physician, slicing away that which does not serve us, preserving and giving room for life anew to take root. The sanctification process of him chastening us to himself must hurt, because the things we’ve held onto that do not serve us but became part of us, must be removed, because death and life cannot reside together. Friends, is it possible that the pain you are feeling is not God allowing harm to come to you, but his freeing of you? Healing pain must be felt. But like the pain of giving birth, it results in a gift of life so that the pain only heightens the magnitude of wonder and beauty of what it becomes. How beautiful it is to be born again throughout this physical life, where sorrow and pain are perpetually transformed into hope and restoration. I pray that God gives us all the eyes to see the beauty in the pain.

My weary words that calmed the pain:

I know that it feels that your body has been under attack, and you are doing what you were designed to do when attacked. Your nerves are reacting in a reasonable way. But I want to tell you that you are not under attack. What has happened to you is healing. The surgeon’s scalpel was there to provide a way for healing. And now that the tool has done its job, it's out of the way. I am trusting you, and trusting your flesh, your nerves, your arteries, your capillaries, to come back together and know what God designed you to do. The master craftsman, the master engineer, he knows how each one of these things is connected, he designed them in such a way to build, to restore, so that even after a decade of ruin, of pressure, of conformity to something that was not meant to be, that even after all of that for so long, there can be freedom. And these precious body parts are now free. Oh, you think that you are under attack, but you have been set free. You have been set free, to fire in all the ways you were supposed to be firing all along, but due to no fault of your own, you became entrapped. But you have been freed. Freed indeed. Oh my friend you will be stronger than before, but please never forget that this is not an attack, this is healing, and sometimes healing hurts. Sometimes healing is scary. First while you don’t trust yourself and then as your weakness and your inability is tested, the possibility of failure is scary. The risk of harm is scary. But you can rest in this, that what your body is doing is healing. It is healing in a new, free way that is beautiful. I love you. I trust you. You have overcome so much, so very much. This body of yours, designed by the creator of the universe, it knows what to do, not because of you but because of who loved you. Thank you, Lord, for all of these nerves that are firing like crazy, for the pain that reminds me I’m alive and for as long as I am alive, there is hope. Lord, redeem this flesh, these bones. Healing can be painful, lean into it.

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