„Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.“ Lance Armstrong
Last spring I started to feel week and sick, and little by little all sorts of pain started moving into my body. By the time summer began, I was hardly leaving my bed. Every time I would take a painkiller I felt like pain had won and I lost the game I was forced to play with her. In the middle of summer I ended up in the hospital, just to go through a long list of painful exams. Try to imagine how it would feel if someone would dig into your body to take a piece of your bone or kidney, or go through your stomach with a camera stuck to a cable.
Pain was omnipresent. While I was hospitalized, I started talking to people around me about it. I recorded, with their permission, some of those talks on an old sound-recorder. I also made a series of photographs, although it was painfully hard to hold my cameras.
When I was around 10 years old I hurt myself on the school playground. My sports teacher came to me and asked: „Does it hurt?“ I replied through tears: „Yes, it does.“ He said: „That’s good!“, while smiling and added: „It means you are alive!“ I remember how I was confused and angry at him at the moment, but his words stuck with me. Yes, it is true, if it hurts, it means that you are alive! And with time, I added, and while you are alive, anything is possible!
The good side of pain is that it can be an alarm showing you that there’s a problem in a specific part of your body. Pain can be seen as a messenger, and we shouldn’t hate or kill the messenger, right? But other than masochists, people hate pain and would naturally try to avoid it and get rid of it as soon as possible!
I found out that pain is one of the most solitary experiences. Yes, you can have a supporting and understanding friends and family, but in your pain you stand alone. And unlike other things in our bodies, pain cannot be measured. You can just depict the intensity of it on a scale from one to ten, but it’s subjective. Some people can endure strong, devastating pain and others cannot even endure the slightest forms of pain.
„It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience“, said Julius Caesar. It is spring again and I am in the process of healing. Pain, that cruel teacher of patience, is not at its best anymore.
And I repeat to myself: Pain is temporary, pain is temporary, pain is…
Lucija, 71, housewife, patient in the hospital
When I’m in pain, I just say: God, it’s in your hands. For me it’s harder to watch someone else’s pain than to suffer my own.
Bruna, 32, a nurse
Pain is when something is bothering you and you’re helpless. I think helplesness is just another name for pain. The biggest and deepest pain I encountered in my life was losing my father. It can’t be compared to anything else. When someone says word pain, in my head that word is connected to that event.
I also experienced strong pain when I had a cist on my ovaries. That pain was devastating pain, nine on the scale of ten. I didn’t fight. I let myself to that pain until it was gone. When it was worst, I concentrated on breathing. And that is something I tell to my patients when they have painful exams. Breathing can help a lot.
Feodora, 75, a housewife, a patient
I am thinking: „God, let me come to you.“ I would not regret anything, trust me. When I am gone, I am gone. I would rather go there. With that everything stops. When there is a person that suffers in the house, the whole family suffers with that person.
Two days ago I found out that metastasis spread along my whole spine. When I heard that, I didn’t even tremble. It was like God gave me the strength. What can I do, to scream or to hit my head against the wall? What will be will be. My mother-in-law was a good woman, she was like a mother to me. So I say: „God, let me lie next to her and be peaceful.“ And that is going to happen.
(Feodora passed away on December 16. 2016)
Helena, 24, nurse
In the beginning it was hard. You try to cheer up the patients. You are telling them that everything will be fine. You try to send away their dark thoughts and to be there for them when they need you. Sometimes you even think you would rather take their place, especially when you see young people suffering. Older ones already have life behind them.
The worst pain in my life was when my father got sick. We found out he has lung cancer and has only 8 months left to live. There was no way to save him. It’s really hard to explain what is pain until you find yourself in that situation.
Divanka, 54, a cook, a patient
I am afraid of pain. I try to deal with it by myself, but my husband notices it and tries to comfort me. But no one can really help you. I can even endure pain, but weakness, being dependent on others is something I can hardly bear. When you can’t walk on your own or take a glass of water on your own…
There are no words that could comfort a person in pain. Others can just be present in those moments. But the pain stays.
Miranda, 56, nurse in retirement, visitor in hospital
Pain is something hard, something horrible. It’s hard for anyone, a child, a young person, a middle age man or an elderly person. I have a strong tolerance for pain, but not everyone is the same. Someone can take a lot, and someone else cannot bear even small amounts of pain. It also depends on how strong you are mentally. What’s really important is your surrounding, to have understanding and support from your family, friends, medical staff. When you feel love and safety, it’s easier to endure pain.
Sanda, 24, a nurse intern
You are giving your best to help people that suffer, by talking to them and showing your support in some other ways, but with time you harden. Every now and then you say the last goodbye to some patients and you could go crazy because of all that pain.
I remember the first time I entered a hospital, I was still a kid, second year of medical high school. It was on the Gastroenterology department. They sent me to a room with a task to feed almost completely paralysed man. I was in total shock. And now try to imagine that that man died, that they tried to reanimate him in front of you and in the end they just collect dirty sheets and that is it.
Višnja, 32, a doctor
One of the most important human rights is to be without pain. If a man is dying of some deadly disease he needs to get enough liquid and to be without the pain. Those are the main etical principles. Doctors are just looking at medical reports and say if someone is well. So often we don’t see the general condition of the patient. Why someone survives and someone dies? Someone feels bed, but get well and survive and someone else feels well and all of a sudden dies. There are so many things that medicine can’t explain.
As a doctor you either have developed empathy or you don’t have it. I can hardly stand other people’s pain and there are doctors that haven’t developed empathy at all. It is big downside if a doctor, even with one word, hurts their patient.