Mary-Lynne, a well-spoken 60-year-old Nun from Burwood in Sydney, has lived with chronic, often-debilitating pain for more than 35 years, since being diagnosed with arthritis in her mid-20s. Due to the impact of the condition on her joints, soft tissue and bones, Mary-Lynne has endured more than 20 different surgeries over this time, including total hip and knee replacements, major back surgeries and many other procedures, including operations to repair tendons that had snapped off bone.
Mary-Lynne lives with daily pain in her hips, knees and lower back, as well as nerve pain, and pain from scar tissue throughout her body. For many years she took strong opioid drugs such as morphine and oxycontin to try and manage the pain, however she found that she was requiring higher and higher doses to get any relief. Frightened of the side effects of these increasingly higher doses, which included poor concentration, inability to drive, and difficulty staying awake, Mary-Lynne began visiting Bounce Rehab, where she learnt to understand and control her pain in a different way.
Through the support of Chronic Pain Australia and her Bounce Rehab team, Mary-Lynne began to see her pain as separate to herself; while it was a part of her, it did not need to define her. Mary-Lynne also saw a psychologist who helped her to better understand her pain, and taught her strategies to compartmentalise her experience of pain, to prevent her from becoming overwhelmed.
Mary-Lynne’s pain management strategy now is focused on meditation and mindfulness, and physiotherapy sessions and exercises designed to strengthen and stretch her body. When Mary-Lynne first began working with her physiotherapist three years ago, her main goal was to be able to walk around the block, but her physio encouraged her to set a much more challenging goal – doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. So, for the last three years Mary-Lynne has been working towards that goal, and will climb the bridge at the end of June, with her physiotherapist, President of Chronic Pain Australia Dr Coralie Wales, and several friends from Bounce Rehab along for support.
Mary-Lynne believes that building a supportive team has made all the difference in the world to the way she is able to manage her chronic pain. She now feels supported in all areas of her life; not just the physical manifestations of her condition, but the psychological and emotional aspects as well.
“Working together with a team is what helped me - I couldn’t have done it all on my own. I want other pain sufferers to realise that they’re not alone, there’s support and help available, they just have to ask. Together we can do it!”
“When I first started working with my physio three years ago I just wanted to be able to walk around the block. But we set a goal of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and have been working towards that, building my strength. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so rewarding to get to where I am now.”
“I think a lot of people living with chronic pain aren’t aware of what help is available. There are so many resources available on the Chronic Pain Australia website, free resources, things that really helped me. It can seem like managing pain is very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be, there are free and inexpensive ways to manage pain, simple things that can really improve your life.”
“I do worry about getting older and coping with chronic pain. But I hope that in the next part of my life I can continue learning new ways to reduce the intensity of my pain, and keep living an active life.”