It is with sadness that I write this blog post today. I would never intentionally hurt anyone. But I wanted my followers/friends in the pain community to know that this was the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do. I loved doing this volunteer work for USPF. They always told me that we were a “family”. Yet, the very day that I lost my Long acting/Extended release pain medication, I opened an email that was just the opposite of everything I thought we stood for. Since that email, I have contemplated resigning, but did not want to “hurt” anyone or do anything to leave them without enough board members etc. But from that day on, things just went down hill. Next, I saw a trailer for a movie that stars actress Karen Duffy and our Interim CEO, called “Balancing the Pain Scale”, that I found out has been in production for 2-3 years. As a Board member, I knew nothing about this movie until someone else alerted me. I went to the trailer and was saddened when I saw the words get “beyond the pill bottle” as I was losing the one thing that had given me some semblance of a life; and so are so many of you.
Lastly, I must add that in the past, I was sent copies of kind emails that pain patients would send in about me. I was also sent emails about patients who needed my help. I never received any emails/letters such as these since becoming a Board member. Not until a disgruntled pain patient who was removed from one of my groups for being disrespectful and unkind sent the interim CEO an email. This person spelled my name incorrectly as “Susan Stuart”, she obviously does not know me and did not know me at all. I felt belittled and reprimanded by being sent the code of ethics. Especially when the issues had nothing to do with USPF and I did not use my role in any conversations with that person. I did not receive a personal phone call, nor did anyone request any information or clarification regarding the absurd complaint; after my years of loyalty to USPF. Therefore, you can read the end result in my recent letter to the Board members below:
Dear Nicole, Wendy, Ellen, Leah & Bruce,
When I was initially asked to join the Board of Directors of the USPF, I was pleased and excited to be joining a group that I feel is doing wonderful things and representing the interests of the pain community.
Very quickly, (due to Paul’s behaviors+), I discovered that this perception was not true. However, I decided to help shoulder the burden of guiding USPF through the trauma of the aftermath of of Paul’s mishandling of funds & more. Also to stay & help with USPF losing its founder and CEO. As time went on, shocking details of misuse of funds & other inappropriate behaviors kept adding up.kept adding up. I decided that it was my duty to stick by Nicole & the other Board members & our legal team, to help clean up this mess & help to guide US Pain Foundation in the right direction.
I have become increasingly frustrated because everything that was promised to me upon becoming a Board member has not happened. I was told that I could represent US pain foundation at Pain week in Las Vegas 2018. I was also told that I would be put on an advisory board and be given a program of my own to run and see through to the end. I have been told repeatedly that as a Board member I cannot officially run any programs, but others do. I feel that those things I’m most passionate about are marginalized. I feel that somehow I was inadvertently sought out & appointed to the Board, because somehow, some person(s) thought that I would just agree and not ever express my own voice and opinions. But I do have opinions and a voice. I’m sad that as a board member I don’t know who any of our donors are and I didn’t find out about the movie that’s been in production for three years, I was told? There’s so many things I don’t know but then Leah told me that “there’s no one higher than the board”? It’s a bit confusing in all honesty. I feel “kept in the dark” about many things.
One big reason or probably the that I feel the need to resign from the board of directors of the US Pain foundation starting immediately, is due to the lack of insurance for Board members & support group members. I don’t feel “safe” being involved with voting on big decisions yet being “left in the dark” much of the time. I don’t really know where money is going or where n it comes from in all honesty. All the things that I used to love I’m not able to do anymore because “I am a board member“.
Last of all & sadly, I received an email today with a copy of the code of ethics from Nicole. A disgruntled pain patient from Canada, sent her note full of horrible lies & accusations. I was not consulted privately via a phone call or even given the benefit of the doubt. I have never had any trouble with not one person since I joined this or any organizations. I don’t speak or claim to speak for the USPF in any of my groups that I run. I only give facts with links to back up what I say as chronic pain patient.
For all of the above reasons and due to the fact that I don’t feel respected, I must tender my resignation from the Board of Directors of the US Pain Foundation immediately.
Peace & Hope,
Suzanne B. Stewart
Recipient of USPF’s Pain Ambassador of the Year Award‘16, Mentor & Social Media Assistant RSDSA, Staff Columnist/Ntl. Pain Report, Blog-“Tears Of Truth” @tearsoftruth.com, Patient leader WEGO Health, HoH/ASL, patient advocate for Deaf/HoH
“Out of suffering have emerged the most massive characters are seared with scars” ~Khalil Gibran~
Thank you for taking the time to let me share with you. I feel a deep sadness and broken at this time.
When our Attorney general, Jeff Sessions told the pain community to take an Aspirin and tough it out; I hope he didn’t mean those living with cancer pain, A.S., CRPS, E.D.S. and many of the high pain chronic illnesses? I’m guessing that he must have meant that more for someone who strained their back by lifting a TV or a dresser that was too heavy? Maybe not? But that’s my guess. Along those same lines are “Complimentary Therapies”. In my personal opinion, if Acupuncture works for your kind of pain, that is great. If something called “grounding”, where walking barefoot and reconnecting with the earths energy can help your pain, thats wonderful too! Whatever works to diminish your pain, that’s what matters most. Insurance companies should be more than willing to pay for these complimentary therapies ahead of any major or minor invasive or noninvasive surgeries! There should be choices available to those who want and need them. But as much as mindfulness, guided imagery and “thinking your pain away”, are awesome ideas; I don’t think they generally help to curtail certain high levels of pain and pain illnesses.
Medical cannabis is helping many chronic pain patients with nausea, physical withdrawal symptoms and chronic pain. The Marijuana Effective Drug Studies (MEDS) Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). He has proposed a bill, (S.1803) to encourage scientific research on cannabis as an effective and safe medical treatment. We need to advocate for this bill because Medical cannabis can be helpful to some people who live with chronic conditions. The American Pain Society support this Act.
We are fighting for a variety of methods to help those with high pain illnesses to deal with their pain. I’ve read that Kratom is another plant based fighter against chronic pain. These can be wonderful tools to help many persons. We need to keep fighting for many different methods to help with chronic pain, because we are all individuals and what works for one person, does not always work for another. Pain patients should be able to use whatever method of pain relief works for them because individual metabolisms vary. The therapies available to us, help many different kinds of chronic pain. Each method contains various medicinal qualities that work differently in each patient. It’s also true that one specific method of pain relief doesn’t help everyone. Nobody should be forced into taking or doing something that they don’t feel comfortable with.
The same is true with surgeries and injections. In my personal opinion, these continuous injections into the spine, are just “money makers” for the chronic pain clinics who are now too afraid to prescribe opioids. Even though the CDC told us that the 2016 guidelines were just a “guide” and they are not the law. It seems as though the majority of pain clinics and Doctors jumped on the bandwagon to demonize opioids after the guidelines were disclosed. Now we are seeing suicides go up with the decrease in prescribing of Opioids for chronic pain illnesses. It seems as though there is a correlation between the lowering of Opioid prescribing and an increase in surgeries for Spinal cord stimulators, pain pumps and nerve ablations. But no one should EVER be forced into having an invasive surgery that could possibly cause more pain and stress for these already medically fragile human beings. My physical therapist told me that the SCS means surgically putting a catheter into your spine to give small electric shocks in order make you think of those shocks instead of the pain! She told me that our brain cannot think of pain and pleasure at the same time. I’m guessing that some think these electric shocks are pleasurable? I had a T.E.N.S. unit soon after my car accident and it did help with muscular pain and soft tissue damage, slightly. I have read that they’re (SCS) most helpful in people who have low back pain, leg pain or one area of pain and not multiple pain issues (http://aansneurosurgeon.org/features/neurosurgeons-rise-address-opioid-crisis-america/).
My previous pain clinic physician informed me that the intrathecal pain pump administers approximately 1/300th of the amount of oral medication needed to relieve high amounts of chronic pain. But this is also living with a literal “hockey puck” inside of your gut forever and and depending on one person to fill it! That same Dr., told me that I would be “married to him” as a patient, for life. In my research, I have found that if your physician leaves his practice, retires or if you have complications in another city/state or country; your pretty much out of luck, in all honesty! Emergency rooms and other physicians won’t normally touch another Dr’s patient with a pain pump! Again, this is another invasive surgery where your body is being cut and something is put into your spine. Complications stem from worsening pain to paralysis. Here is an article that speaks to some of the complications (http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/health/to-your-good-health/implanted-back-pain-pump-is-an-option-for-very-few/article_474eed95-3f54-59ca-9b9b-9f8f941c0300.html). The nerve ablation or Radiofrequency Neurotomy, means literally “burning” nerves to “create a heat lesion”, thus, making the nerves lose functionality (https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/injections/radiofrequency-neurotomy-facet-and-sacroiliac-joint-pain). Each person feeling relief from chronic pain, is all that matters. We should be able to have choices available to discuss with our own physicians.
Someone who knows our past history of illness and our current diseases. A Dr. who can discuss these different methods with us and help us determine which route is best for each individual.
This past week I read an article in “Clinical Pain Advisor” (https://www.clinicalpainadvisor.com/treatments/epidural-steroid-injections-postmenopausal-women-bone-mineral-density-vertebral-fractures/article/739080/) that touched on the issues with the Epidural Steroid Injections. After having many of these injections in the first years following my car accident, now I find out that they cause decreased bone mineral density and increased risks for vertebral fractures. It appears that there are complications with every method of pain relief. We just need to be able to choose what is best for our own body. Nobody should be forced into surgeries, Acupuncture, Marijuana or Opioids. On the other hand, if one method, such as Opioids, have worked for you and you’ve literally tried many other methods of pain relief, then you should be able to continue. Taking a pill that has little or no side effects for a group of people who are doing well with Opioid therapy, should be still allowed and not demonized. I believe there will always be a place for Opioids for the relief of chronic pain. If you have been taking them for many years and are stable, then obviously you are not “addicted”. Don’t forget that there is a difference between addiction and dependency.
I saw a “call to action” from my US Pain Foundation family in January, about the upcoming “Rare Disease Day”, on 2-28-18. I went to Rarediseaseday.org to check it out. There was so much information and 2 of my illnesses (CRPS & EDS -4/Vascular) we’re on the list! I downloaded the social media packet and started sharing in each of my groups & on all of my pages, Blog etc. I wrote to the event facilitators and they posted “my story” and a video that I had made, about CRPS.
(Here’s the link: http://www.rarediseaseday.org/stories/6082)
I was really excited to share more about this day as people started asking me more and more questions.
After calling around, I found a venue to host my own “Rare Disease Day” event. Within minutes, the Township Supervisor, Pat Williams (whose helped me with “Pain Awareness Month” proclamations etc.), found me a venue in the Canton Leisure Services building, called “The Summit”.
The event day finally arrived! But as I was getting things ready to take with me, I had a bad fall. In trying to maneuver steps without anyone else home, my foot didn’t clear the step and I stumbled while going upwards. I was in a great deal of pain, but I couldn’t let down those sho were counting on me. My husband and I decided to take my wheelchair, which I usually reserve for outings where I might be walking a bit more. I needed it and it helped me get through the evening.
This Awareness event turned out to be one of my favorites! It was in the lobby, so people were coming “in and out”. It was quite busy with people from the pool area and the gym.
Many people stopped and asked questions Like, ”What is Rare Disease day? What is the US Pain Foundation? Why are you here?” Etc. I had some medical professionals stop and we exchanged our “Rare Disease Day” online stories with each other! They showed me their photos and told me about the research they’re doing on a few “Rare Diseases.” There was another medical professional and a couple Physical Therapists who also were very interested in the INvisible project and other information that I had with me. I got the chance to give out my new chronic pain Support group information when several people stopped to tell me their “story.”
I had downloaded the Rare Disease Day info packet from the website and made copies. Those were also popular with a few High School students who stopped by my table, at first because the candy bowl caught their eye! But they told me about upcoming projects that they have to do. They wanted all the information that they could get. Not surprisingly, there were many people interested in the Migraine & Rheumatoid Disease editions of the INvisible Project. I even had the family of a Veteran, ask if they could take one of those editions home for a relative who’d been in the Korean War.
All in all it was the best event I’ve had and it felt like I reached a lot of people, answered many questions and listened to many sad stories. But I also gave US Pain Foundation information to several persons. It felt as though I was giving them hope. “Hope” for themselves or someone they love who lives with chronic pain due to a rare disease.
Lastly, I think that I recruited some new US Pain Foundation, Chronic pain Support group members. They seemed genuinely excited to have a platform to be heard and to talk with others going through similar situations.
Did you know that “Rare Disease Day” is coming soon, on February 28, 2018? Do you know that “rare diseases” aren’t so rare after all? According to the the National Organization for Rare Disorders, there are 7,000 rare diseases and disorders that all together affect 30 million Americans; majority of these are children. In other words, 1 in 10 Americans live with and suffer from rare diseases. This day is an annual celebration to recognize and bring about awareness to the public but also to decision makers. We can each make a difference by either hosting an event, participating in online activities or doing both. Rare Disease day always lands on the very last day in February, the 28th or 29th (if Leap year). Each year we try to increase awareness and knowledge of rare disorders and bring attention to the kind of impact that they have on these people’s lives. Most of these have no cure. Sadly, they largely go unrecognized, under-diagnosed and misdiagnosed. Another fact is that the majority of these diseases, about 95%, have no treatments available and no cures.
The U.S. Pain Foundation supports “Rare Disease Day” and therefore we have provided several ways to include this day in your communities worldwide. We feel that this special day “falls in line with the organization’s mission to connect, inform, empower and educate chronic pain and invisible illnesses.”. There are many ways that you can can become involved in this event. One way that you can raise awareness, is by hosting an awareness event table in your city. You may visit the U.S. Pain Foundation website at the link provided in the above quote, to read more about this day and the events surrounding it. You can also visit the www.Rarediseaseday.org website to get more background and historical information about this day. If you would like to participate in worldwide events you can visit: http://rarediseaseday.us/events.
Other ways to become involved are to: “Save the date” of 2-28-18, because #NORD will be hosting a #tweetchat (#RDD18Chat) on #RareDiseaseDay at 1:00-2:00pm EST. You can also retweet some facts, such as this one: “There are 1 in 10 Americans that live with a #raredisease. That is 30 Million Americans!” You can download the special Social Media logo’s etc. and post them on your Facebook Cover picture and your profile photo. There’s also an official YouTube video that you can share on your own Social Media accounts, at: https://youtu.be/02zR9r-LOfQ. You can follow them on their USA official links at: Twitter @RareDayUS, Facebook @ Rare Disease Day US and Instagram @RareDiseaseDayUS. The Worldwide official links are here: Facebook @Rare Disease Day and Twitter @RareDiseaseDay. The hashtags that you want to use if you would like to spread awareness via social media are: #RareDiseaseDay, #RareDisease, #RareDiseases, #1in10, #CuresNow and #NORD. There is an entire list of ways to get involved right from your own home, bed or recliner; right here at https://www.rarediseaseday.us/get-involved/social-media/#1474047637908-88935dfd-3a29,
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) are the sponsors of this day and these events. But the participants in “Rare Disease Day” are the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Pain Foundation and other patient organizations, government agencies and companies . We also encourage people to plan Advocacy events near their state capital or house to help with issues that are relevant at the state level. The worldwide theme this year for Rare Disease Day 2018, is much needed research of various rare disorders. When there is active research being done, it brings people who are ill, the hope they need in order to continue living and trying.
I’m really excited to share this with you today! The US Pain Foundation has teamed with Victoria Suan, the producer, creator & Director of her Documentary “Becoming Incurable “. I’d written to you about 6 weeks ago regarding the feature film etc. But today I want to share this online magazine that she’s made to compliment the video compilations and her Documentary!
I am the middle of 3 persons being featured in this online magazine. I’m being featured for the illness of CRPS. This is thrilling and just so very exciting to be a part of this beautiful project to spread awareness of chronic pain and illness.
We see so much in print these days about the “addicted”, the “overdoses”, the “bad guys” that are posting incorrect information all over the internet and about the opioid crisis. Of course it seems as though only those of us living with daily chronic pain, truly understand that the “crisis” is indeed one of the pain patients “falling through the cracks”. Being-untreated or under treated and then committing suicide or having to spend the rest of their lives in agony. This is the true “Opioid Crisis”. But then I saw a short clip of a very well spoken, kind young woman named Victoria Suan. She was asking for volunteers to help with an upcoming video compilation called “Inside Incurable Lives”, that she was doing for Social media. She was going to follow a few stories of persons living with daily chronic pain and show how it affects their lives. I responded to her request and sent in some video clips; as did several other chronic pain patients. The first Social media video compilation called “Inside Incurable Lives, Episode 1”, came out in September 2017. In the second video compilation, Victoria was asking if chronic pain patients would be able to tell her “What one pain medication, would they not be able to live without?” Secondly, “If your Dr. Could no longer provide this, what would you do?” The second video compilation project, “Inside Incurable Lives Episode 2”, focused on the voices of pain patients and their views regarding access or lack of access to opioid pain medications as well as medical marijuana. Episode 2 finished and posted in October. I was happy to be able to participate in both of these projects. I’m trying to help with this crisis in any way that I can. Later, I will be providing the links to these 2 video compilations for Social media. But first, I want you to introduce you to Victoria Suan, and her feature Documentary “Becoming Incurable”.
Victoria lives in California and since High school, she was interested in becoming a filmmaker. She graduated from Sacramento State with a Communications degree. She started creating short documentaries during college and then afterwards she decided that she wanted to make a feature documentary. She started researching blogs and video’s on YouTube. From there she discovered the chronic illness community. Victoria found through her research, what she describes as “a wonderful support network of people who are giving one another validation as they deal with the frustrations of chronic pain.” She told me that she was thrilled by what she saw, and inspired. She decided to create a feature documentary about “chronic illness through intimate stories of real people living with chronic pain”. Starting out with her cousin who lives with Dystonia and a friend with another incurable condition, she then found her third featured person for the documentary. She describes the 8 or 9 months of filming as a “wonderful journey”.
The two video compilations on social media, that I participated in, were an extension of her feature documentary. Victoria then made a Facebook page and it became a platform for the chronic illness and pain communities. She has become a “voice” for those of us who live with pain & chronic illnesses and she is showing our side of this painful journey. She also wants to do whatever she can so people learn about her feature documentary.
Before we get to the two video compilations in which the chronic pain communitiy on Facebook participated; I’d like to share some of Victoria Suan’s views about the opioid crisis. I feel that it is very important to listen to the views of others who are neither patient, politician nor physician. Now that she has become close to several of us from the shorter video’s; I asked what her thoughts and feelings are, regarding what is happening to the chronic pain community? Her response was very heartfelt and thoughtful. Victoria told me that regarding the opioid crisis, she “really feels for the families and individuals that are dealing with addiction. Sadly, there aren’t enough ways to treat addiction without affecting the millions of chronic pain patients in our society.” She told me that she’d read that Governor Chris Christie blames hospitals and physicians for starting this opioid epidemic. She wondered “how would a person dealing with chronic pain feel about this? How ignored and betrayed they must feel. Is it wrong to eliminate a torturous level of pain by taking medication as prescribed by Dr.s?” My own feelings are that politicians seem to not really care as long as it doesn’t touch them or their own families. Victoria agrees that they just don’t want to listen to this. She feels that as chronic pain patients, we should not have to fight so hard just to be heard, really listened to. But we are trying to fight because our very lives depend on it.
Victoria feels that it is “sad that one governors personal opinion can do more to influence legislation than the voices of millions of chronic pain patients.” She is happy that there are News outlets such as this and others, along with non profit organizations, such as the U.S. Pain Foundation; that are educating the public about chronic pain. Victoria thinks that the film industry; especially a film called “Unrest” that is touring worldwide; and her documentary, “Becoming Incurable”, show that efforts are being made to educate and inform the general public about chronic pain.
Lastly, I wondered what she has learned from doing the 2 video compilations and the documentary film. She mentioned that she hadn’t realized before doing this, how difficult it is for people living with chronic pain to “do normal tasks, such as getting out of bed and/or going to the grocery store”. I think that it taught her and hopefully will teach others about “Invisible Illnesses”. She says that actually seeing these people in their pain, made her “truly acknowledge what life is like with chronic pain and illness”. She feels that these projects taught her that each person has their own unique story to tell. She has figured out through these projects, that we are united in our pain yet each of our situations vary widely. I want to share with you in Victoria’s words, what she wants people to learn from watching “Becoming Incurable”. She hopes that people “will see these video compilations showcasing pain patients and stand with organizations that are fighting for the chronic illness community. If our government continues on this path of neglect, I’m certain that chronic pain patients will be forced to fight a human rights issue. I think this has already begun, as we are learning the numbers of chronic illness patients committing suicide. It is important that we speak and act now in order to invalidate a campaign that deems anyone taking opioid medication as a suspect of the addiction problem.
Here are the links to the 2 video compilations of “Inside Incurable Lives” by film producer, Victoria Suan: