Carolyn Noel, AACIPM Web Developer

In my November 2020 spotlight, “Patient Resources: Not Just for “Newbies,” I shared a bit of my 18+ year journey with chronic pain and my recent, miraculous improvement–along with my goal to walk a 5K.

As AACIPM’s web developer, I have had the opportunity to learn about–and focus on–comprehensive integrative pain management (CIPM) in a way that has made a huge impact on my life.

So much of our work is focused on the big picture, but we can never lose sight of the people we are trying to help–people like me.

Ironically, an AACIPM symposium played a role in helping me walk again. I was having some painful swelling in one of my legs and had to prop it up. As Murphy’s Law would have it, it was the same week we held a two-day symposium. Sitting at my desk supporting the symposium with my leg propped up for such a long period of time apparently “broke loose” whatever was preventing my hip from moving.

Hope returned after so many years of immobility. As I shared last year, I began walking and gradually increased the distance and improved my speed. I’ve also lost almost 70 pounds and credit keto with helping my inflammation and migraines.

This month, I participated in a local 5K to benefit a domestic violence shelter. Most of the participants were running, but I soon realized I was actually leading the walkers–over a 3 minute lead by the time I finished. I completed the race 64th of 73. I was shocked to hear my name called for 3rd place in the 50-54 age group. I later learned that there were only four people in my age group. Of course, it gave me a little satisfaction to know that most of the walkers behind me were half my age.

None of that really mattered to me because I was really racing myself and proving to myself that I could do it. The course had numerous steep hills that really challenged my hip, but I kept going and finished in 51:30–5 minutes faster than my best practice time.

A year ago, I never would have dreamed this was possible.

Three months after the 2002 car accident that stole my mobility, my livelihood, and so much more, I realized that my pain was only increasing and I started seeking out help online. At that point, I couldn’t stand, sit or lay on my back and couldn’t walk more than 10 unassisted steps. I found an online chat room for pain patients.

My introduction to this support group was somewhat confusing. The conversation was already underway and they were talking about gardening. I was really confused and asked if I was in the right place. They assured me I was and that while they had lived with pain for 15+ years, they had lives. They were gardening, spending time with grandchildren, traveling–so many things that I couldn’t do. I wanted to learn how they did it so my journey to learn how to manage my pain began.

I still live with chronic pain, but now I have hope. I have a fuller life and can actually tie my own shoes! Trust me, this is a big deal when you can’t. I’m cooking healthy meals, walking, working outside in the yard and I just started gardening.

I feel like I have come full circle. I moderate a chat room just like the one I found so many years ago and I look forward to sharing with the next person I meet how I was able to ditch my wheelchair and win a medal and garden through CIPM.


PS: In my previous spotlight, I mentioned that I took the Veterans Administration HealtheLiving Assessment, my rating moved from age 65 down to age 57 and now it’s down to 55 (I’m 54).

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The Connector – Spotlight: Carolyn Noel, Webmaster, AACIPM