By: Samuel Smith, Columnist
On Feb. 7, I did not go to class. I did not go to class for a week after. This isn’t uncommon for me, to skip class. I live with chronic pain, and sometimes it’s just so unbearable I can’t get out of bed.
But Feb. 7 was different. Feb. 7, I got up at 3 a.m., showered, drank some apple juice and rode with my dad to the hospital. At approximately 7:30 a.m., I was wheeled back into an operating room where I underwent a three-hour surgery to remove the source of the pain.
I’m not going to go into details as to what surgery I had, or what happened. But I will say, I write this one week and one day later, and I’m pain-free. I don’t even take Tylenol anymore. The surgery was a success, to say the least. But it wasn’t so easy.
I’m stuck in a finicky situation. While I’m transgender, while my doctors address me as Samuel and he/him, I was always treated as a woman when it came to pain. In the fact that I wasn’t treated for pain.
My chronic pain began when I was 10 years old. It was so bad that there were days I skipped school in middle and high school because of it, faking a “real” physical illness (I’m not saying my pain or illness wasn’t real, but it wasn’t seen as such). I was missing work because of the pain, and not focusing. Yet, when I brought up with doctors that I did my research, and this pain was not normal, they brushed me off, they said it was “just part of being a woman,” that I’d grow out of it. It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that my mother spoke up at one of my appointments, and my doctor said that wasn’t normal and referred me to a specialist. November of 2017, I was diagnosed. I went through treatment after treatment until we ran out of options, and on Feb. 7, I finally underwent surgery.
This isn’t uncommon. According to The Atlantic, “Nationwide, men [in the ER] wait an average of 49 minutes before receiving an analgesic for acute abdominal pain. Women wait an average of 65 minutes for the same thing.” I was prescribed ibuprofen and brushed off for years.
If you’re dealing with chronic pain, speak up! There are treatment options available. It’s okay to do your research and bring that in with you, I’ve done that before. Be the annoying patient. Cry if the pain hurts that bad. Go into detail about how it affects you and your livelihood. Don’t be afraid to change doctors over and over until someone agrees to help. You don’t need to live your life in pain or suffering. Speak up for yourself. Keep speaking up for yourself, even if it takes years.
By the time you read this, I’ll be back in classes and back on campus. But I know now that if I have to take off time for class, it’ll hopefully not be for pain. I’m looking forward to that.