It’s been three years since my cousin LT died. That’s not his real name for privacy reasons, but anyone who knew him will recognize him in that proxy. He was 32 years old and struggled with illness since the age of 17.
At 17 I was going to parties, working, dating, playing sports and getting ready to embark on my college career. He was adjusting to how to live with an ileostomy bag. Imagine being a teenager and having to deal with that.
Surgeries. Pain. Infections. Pain. Hospital stays. Pain. Transfusions. Pain. Broken dreams. And more pain. And opioids to deal with it.
Today there is a lot of conversation about the role of nutrition and meditation in healing the body and strengthening emotional health. If only that were emphasized for him then.
I would chuckle when bringing LT his favorite (sugary) treats and Gatorade on each visit. But inside I wished for a health specialist to fuel his spirit and revamp his diet to help him gain strength and support his healthy organs. Junk food could not be good for his ailments for sure. Regardless of his situation, he was often in good spirits and I bow to him for that.
Out of respect for his family, I won’t share more details about his death, but the grief is deep and cutting. They did everything they could to love and support him in every way.
But we have to help ourselves too and it’s not easy. Especially when doctors are prescribing pain killers as a solution.
We have a pain killer epidemic in this country. Some people rely on them to get through the day, and some die. I have been prescribed significant amounts of pain killers over the years for everything from TMJ to knee repair surgery. My doctors gave me way more than they should have. Thankfully, I do not have addiction issues so they sat in my cupboard and eventually made their way to the garbage. But not everyone’s has.
In the two decades since OxyContin was introduced in 1996, there have been nearly 218,000 overdose deaths*.
I’m not saying LT was one of them but given the pain he was in for the majority of his day, pain meds certainly played a role in his life.
If you or someone you love is in pain, talk about it. Listen and support. Do you best to avoid being an enabler. Encourage them to seek help, and if they don’t, understand it’s not your decision, it’s theirs.
In honor of LT, be kind to yourself and follow your heart.
Cheers to LT who I’m sure is in his own kind of heaven, cheering on his sports team and pain free.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™
If you want to read more about this topic, check out today’s NY Times article* about the role of pharmacies and distributors