How and why I stay positive living in constant pain when my surgery failed. Includes pictures, fusion hardware.

My better half and I
My better half and I

Rules I've learned about living in chronic pain.


Several years ago, seems like eternity now, I was the most active person I knew. Ironically I was working with the only person I’d ever met in my life that could physically outperform me but I’ll leave that for another time. I raced throughout each and every day, working hard and playing even harder. Lazy or sedentary were terms that never would have been attached to my name. Four spinal surgeries later I can only support the weight of my own head for an hour or so before the pain levels are practically intolerable.

Some of the hardware that was  removed four months ago
Some of the hardware that was removed four months ago

I continually attempted to return to work after each of my surgeries. Made it for almost three years after the first, less than a month on several attempts following the second, and unfortunately never since the last one. I’ve had more than a few radiology technicians state,

“I have never seen as much hardware as what is in your neck.”

Some of them work at VA which says a lot in itself. Those statements continue even after having had two rods and a dozen screws removed from the back of my neck. That was quite shocking to me as you can probably imagine. I still have a cage, some plates, and a lot of screws remaining. What I’ve written thus far was only to establish that I do in fact have some personal experience with chronic pain.

Hope for better days
Hope for better days

When this all began I received an immense amount of help, sympathy, and attention. Not that I was l actively seeking any of them, it is just the normal reaction from people when something like this happens. I am very lucky to have the support I do from my wife, my daughter, and my parents as I can’t say with certainty I would have chosen not to end my life a long time ago.

The most important thing I have learned is to never complain, or at least complain as little as is possible. People can see for themselves when anyone is in a great deal of pain. Nobody needs to be reminded as this does not benefit yourself or others. I continue to accomplish as much as I physically can and call it good.

I think the next most important thing I do is to never feel sorry for yourself. I remind myself that there are people everywhere that are in much worse situations and even in more pain. I am a veteran and I am disabled but that is not to say I am a disabled veteran. There are many young men and women coming home missing limbs, as well there are many people in burn centers no doubt living daily nightmares of unimaginable pain levels. It is highly unlikely that you are in more pain than anyone else on the planet. I think it is wise to remember this.

I can’t speak for the helpfulness of psychology or psychiatry although I believe that either one would probably be a definite asset. A medical review board from the Social Security sent me for an evaluation with a psychiatrist several months ago. I enjoyed speaking with this doctor very much but as he was hired by the Social Security Administration it would not be allowed or ethical for him to see me on a professional basis. He did however ask me to return, off the record just as a friend, and let me know how things are progressing. That was a very nice gesture.


Anyway that is all I have for today in summation my advice is as follows:

Don’t complain or whine and always remember there are many people in worse situations thus you should never feel sorry for yourself. Also regardless of what any doctor may tell you, don’t ever give up hope.

More by this Author


Comments 38 comments

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

You have been courageous in sharing this experiences with the rest of the readers, and positive thinking is the key to a hopeful


David Warren profile image

David Warren 4 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you for reading! I agree attitude helps a lot. Not enough to cure perhaps but it is the most important part of pain that we can control as individuals. Greatly appreciate the vote up and useful!


David Warren profile image

David Warren 4 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you! Writing and getting feedback about these issues serves as a sort of self-help-therapy for myself. I try to stay as positive as is possible :)_


emilybee profile image

emilybee 4 years ago

What a wonderful hub. Your positivity surely is reflected through this hub. Complaining when in pain is so easy to do, but I try to stay busy and do what I can to deal. Attitude is everything and oftentimes helps heal, too. Thanks for sharing this inspirational hub which will help many people deal better with their pain. Voted up and useful.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

Thank you for this reminder. There are days where all I want to do is complain and head for the hills. But you are right - there are so many people out there who have it worse than I do. And I have such great support - who the heck do I think I am to act like a baby?! You're an inspiration :)


David Warren profile image

David Warren 4 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you for reading! I was just opening this to update and edit it when I saw your comment! I can't believe how bad some of my hubs appear after not looking back after publishing. I am currently working on revising and editing all of them.


Tessa 4 years ago

Thanks for your uplifting chat - you are so right - there is no point in complaining, it just makes everyone miserable and achieves nothing. I allow myself a moan every now and then but notice I do it less often as, like you, I find it serves no purpose, only gets me down. Best of luck with your own situation - you sound such a nice person I truly hope your pains will sort out. T.


pearl cooke 5 years ago

hi im from northeren ireland im 50 now but ive been in pain all my life even as a child i could not do the things my friends could but as life went on it got worse at 17 and 18 i had major ops to see if it could help it did a bit for 10 years and then badly downhill again ive just got on with it because ive known no other way ive had 2 hip replacements helped a bit but again not for long the last 4years ive lived in severe pain day in and day out i cant do very much now and also im not very smart so i cant do alot to keep me interested on the computer but that aside i also suffer from clinic deperession for 22 years i had to go through cold turkey last year to come off my antidepression tablets as they where giving me horrific side affects 3months of my lofe was a living nightmare but living without my tablets is also a night mare i have a husband a 1 son they just don't know what awaits them every day they come through the door my marriage is at breaking point because he still wants a life and i cant join im on my own all the time because he wont stay in to be with me he likes to be active my son works and is only22 he needs his own life but he is so good to me most of the time he just would like me to be normal im in the house morning to night mostly on my own a smy husband likes his hobbies too i don't really blame but im lonley and in a world of my own i have no friends that visit because i cant do anything with them they stopprd coming my family strangly don't believe that im in the pain im in so they don't bother with me because i cant help look after my90 year old mum im in so much pain just writing this now my nech hurts so much my hands hurt my hips feet back hurt too i now have this thing with my skin that i cant bare my clothes on for any length of time as all elestic hurts me my doc said its in my head i also ive got a disease in my mouth and my personl regin its incureable and my husband conplains about no intimatesay im in the change of life soaking all the time too i hardley evr go out only on days i think this is a good day and im no sooner out than ive got to come home because of pain but reading some of the comment shere i would like to change my out look on life and stop my whinning well thanks for listening


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you Joshua!


Joshua526 5 years ago

Voted up! I really love real advice from real people!


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

Hi David.. I'm just being a bit nosy here :) Do you have a hot tub or a walk in for "not so hot" water, tub? I mean other than regular house tub? If so does it help? I'm the only one whose not signed for my house, but when I do I'll be able to get something easy to walk into while I wait for the pain med to work.. I'm also thinking of getting one of those air dryers like at restaurants!lol-joking on that funny wish!! My worker and Dr. seem to think it'd be helpful if I can get a place that would work on it, so if they are actually beneficial I'll beg borrow and whine like a box o' puppies (ok sell stuff lol) if they really helped in the mornings! What do you think, good idea? Waste of resources? Any input would be appreciated. Hope the day finds things tolerable! *Peace*


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you for commenting! Yes I have a separate pain management doctor but am in the process turning my medical back into the Veterans Administration as this whole thing has financially all but destroyed us. You are correct on the glasses on the forehead,lol. Same as you! I got bifocals and did wear them for over a year, never got used to or liked them. I just move them out of the way as yourself.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

best predictors of function after a disabling event are previous level of functioning and current level of support. sounds like you have plenty of reason for hope.

i got SSDI after three tries. now it, along with a part-time job, supports me. in 2011, a person is allowed to earn on average $1000 per month and keep their benefit. this amount goes up with the COLA.

i second what nellieanna says. hypnosis can be effective in dealing with pain. one of my pediatrician friends hypnotizes her patients so they don't feel the IV's she's inserting. it's just very effective relaxing communication. some psychologists will help you make individualized audiotapes to hypnotize yourself to distract yourself or visualize the pain signals in your nerves turning down or whatever works for you.

have you been to a pain specialist?

as i've gotten older, i can't see up close with my glasses on, so wear them atop my head while reading and writing, and back on my nose for everything else, especially driving. is this the same for you (noticed your profile photo)?


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

hm - I guess that's for sure. Hypnosis?


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you greatly! Would love to write such a book but first I'll need too find a better pain management system than the narcotic path I've been led down, lol.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

David, now that I've read more of your hubs, it is even more commendable that your attitude is so healthy in spite of the pain, enough that what you communicate is in no way a mask for it, but truly comes from a courageous and a gracious spirit. You could write a book for people dealing with that sort of intense pain. It would be practical as well as inspirational, I'll bet.

I am glad I came back to this hub and read it again. I'm all the more eager to read more of your work!


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

I agree, I don't follow anyone without reading and liking something I have seen. I have pictures on Flickr under the username videogeek1. They don't go back as far as the eighties, that was the era of my active duty time although I was in several reserve components until early 2001. That did give me some idea's for new hubs. I have plenty of amusing enlisted stories!

have a great day and thank you!


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

You're certainly welcome David.. I don't think I'm like a lot of people just putting a follow on people to get the number up there. But people to relate to. It helps US as people stay connected with things in common, so we're not just another number. We have more than our pain (ugh) in common, but I live near Cherry Point AFB, and one of my newest and good friend on hubpages, her and her husband are Military! They're super great people, I was kind of nudging her to get some of her photos from places she's been posted! Soon I hope! :) Maybe when you're up to it, you might want to share some of yours, or even some of the "better" parts of being enlisted.

I guess I can thank you as well, for being a part of those who help our world become a better place. Have a great day! -K


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Katherella, your the best! Can't thank you enough for all your support and comments!


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

Hi, just peeking in to say I thought of you yesterday! I'd gone to the doctor, on the way home I had a coupon to get a replica of the Royal wedding ring (Um, why I need this????) :) but they were sold out! So, I find myself in the shoe and purse departments, same thing WHY? lol. But I did find some summer sandals, needed much more than a ring that has nothing to do with me! :) On the way home, when the pain of walking around in the store was setting in, it just gave me that nudge of a reminder that even the little things we do can hurt so intensely, and none of the goodies were taking my pain away either! Well, in my mind, I wished you the most pain free day possible, and just dropping in to let you know you had a person out there in the world wishing you a bit less pain! And then again this morning, as I felt like I'd been hit by a train. All the pretty things in the world don't take away, I think subconsciously it's a way of looking for ANYTHING to help.. maybe it did, as you say, knowing someone else couldn't of even stood there as long as I did, and I have GOT to learn more from your positive attitude. I think staying relaxed as possible and seeing others smiling faces are a great help! Hope these spring days, somehow help you.. although, don't go shopping *big grin* -K


SilverGenes 5 years ago

Attitude is everything! You seem to have what you need to keep you moving forward; loving family and supportive friends are fantastic but that certain inner spark is what it's all about. Your passion for life comes shining through and you are so right about hope. I'm so pleased we connected :)


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you for commenting! Appreciate your information as well.


Amanda Lacasse profile image

Amanda Lacasse 5 years ago from Massachusetts

A friend of ours fell from a scaffolding last year, at age 60, and broke his neck. Luckily, he did not become disabled (or die!), but lives in constant pain, like you. He is also very positive and upbeat, despite it all, and still does most things he used to do. He is getting tired of pain meds, however, and is currently exploring alternative methods of pain relief, such as craniosacral massage, acupuncture, etc. He has great faith that one of these techniques will work.


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you!


chspublish profile image

chspublish 5 years ago from Ireland

I admire your strength of character and mindset. An insoiration to all!


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

I'm glad David, I'm also thankful you have a wonderful family that give you the best incentive in the world... to make their holiday happier because dad made them happy, and you were surrounded by people who care for you! :) It might hurt, but you have somethings a lot of people don't. A family who loves you. :)


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank You! I need to finish preparing our house and Easter dinner as my wife and daughter are both working today and we have guests coming. I definitely will take some time and respond in more detail tomorrow. Your comment has already helped me in getting through today, thank you so much!


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

Hi again David, here is the hub I really wanted to comment on the most!

I admire you trying to stay positive, as Nellieanna says! It's a hard thing to accomplish, but trying is the first step toward failur... oh wait, that's a Homer Simpson saying.. I MEAN.. trying keeps us strong!:D *smile*

(Please accept my sillyness and humor, if you had a giggle there, I hope it didn't hurt much, but they do say humor soothes the soul and is one of natures great healers. It may not heal the body, but it definitely can help with the process of healing the mind, if anything be it's a friend in need, indeed!:)

If you felt better talking to someone about all that has gone on with your neck, then find someone else, VA will find you someone to talk (Hey some of us out here DO pay taxes so that you can have these sort of help, you're entitled! Some of us would rather you use what you have due!) So someone who is unbiased it could help just talking and getting it out, rather than keeping it bottled up inside!

Tension can keep pain prevalent when relieving it from your mind, can help relieve it from your physical tension. Not being able to do the things with your family that you once could can be rather depressing whether your male or female. Depression doesn't pick and choose the person, it has no preference, it's like any other illness/feeling it can strike anyone, so just because there ARE others who have it worse, doesn't mean that yours is less! Allow yourself to get through this, however YOU need to do it, it doesn't make you a lesser man! Please don't think that just because someone else is worse than you.

Please do not take any negativity I might seem to portray as such, as I am a bit of a realist, and yes, I wish hindsight would get in it's proper place! Foresight! Unfortunately, ... we have to live with the high sight saying!

While I cannot understand the magnitude of YOUR pain as I've not had the SAME pain, nor surgeries, I decided to buy my own house about 7 years ago. 4 years ago, I was cutting down a very small tree, which just happened to be GREEN. Needless to tell a Veteran, they're not quite as easy to bring down as the dead tree waiting to have branches snapped off and tossed into the fire pit!

Well, I thought ONE MORE good swing of the axe and that little tree was coming DOWN. Not the case! Not only did it not budge, but I felt a sharp shooting pain across my shoulder (you might take a look at my hub on Shoulder Impingement,) although it might not help you, POSSIBLY the placement of pillows in sleeping or even just to relax for TV or good book could be of help!)

I came inside and thought, AH, heating pad, some tylenol and some rest might have me ready to finish taking that tree out the next day. Well, I'd fell asleep with that darn heating pad on, and, I've made some mistakes in my day, but I've NEVER made a mistake like that before! Heat was the worst possible thing I could have done other than trying to chop more on the tree, which wasn't happening! After no improvement after about 3 days, I couldn't tolerate the pain, and if you read my hub on my shoulders, I not only had double shoulder impingement's but the nurse at the specialist gave me two gallon jugs of water to hold to weight down my shoulders for ex-rays. Ooooook! I just begged her to HURRY, as I didn't think I could hold them! But I got through it as soon as I heard that click, I sat them down quickly. Needless to say I left that office in tears! I was given soma & vicodin, which if you know the two drugs mixed together is equivalent to legal heroin. ONE script to stop the spasms was it! He said, too addicting, you're going to have to learn to deal with the pain, but while you have the medication, here's the script for physical therapy. (x3 as one wasn't going to be enough) Well, that all started a good, and the people at PT, BLESS THEM for compassion and understanding of the pain!!

When I had to go to my next round of PT, there was no more pain medication left, and I knew I needed more PT. I asked for it in fact, and said, I know you're supposed to write "drug seeker" on my chart if I ask for more pain medication, but PLEASE do not make me suffer that without any, and if I feel, or you feel any addiction beginning, PLEASE, I will most certainly go into a rehab or do whatever it takes to get "unaddicted." He did write me out a rather large quantity and a high dosage as well. Which I desperately needed when my father's last days were caving on him, and he was dying as his dementia was overpowering his memory medications. And with some of his silly sayings during that time, I needed those bits of humor to get me through, which he knew he said something funny, but didn't know what, so he laughed, and I truly believe it was certainly a blessing in disguise. Helping him to and from the bathroom however, was NOT. ::sigh::

I'm VERY lucky in the fact that even after taking the narcotic after all these years I show no addictive behaviors nor do I EVER take any I don't have to, as we know they take other tolls on our bodies that are, well, let's just say NOT so desirable! lol As well as rather embarrassing and expensive! OVERALL troublesome to have to deal with ALL of it!

Now, I realize as a Military and family man, you're not a drug user from the street, so you can understand looking over at a HUGE bottle of pain medication with dyer DISGUST and hatred! But as well as knowing that is the ONLY relief!

As a woman it makes simple things like us liking to change clothes and shoes and undergarments more than I care to let the world know (although I just put it on hubpages now lol) but I've had to demote from REAL to sports undergarments and buy more 'stretchy' tops than what I like. Dressing up is hard, and my hair is longer than waist length so talk about a chore ON top of a chore! I don't want to cut it, so sometimes I just have to stick with necessity and miss out on things because my hair being so long! I have to brush it in sections and make all appointments in the late afternoon as it takes me all morning to get ready to go to my appointments.

Needless to say there is laundry / folding / dishes / cooking (I guess for men the grill! lol! Not to mention for a female we like jewelry that sometimes just can't do! I can't reach my hands behind my head to put on a necklace if it takes too long, then there's vacuuming UGH! (luckily I live alone for now but when my bf gets here.. oh my lol, he said he'd take care of yard work, which as of now I do, but it's hard! and time consuming because I have to break it down into parts! On the East coast it's always raining for no apparent reasons it just clouds up, then makes yard work impossible on top of everything else!

One thing was sort of troubling, I didn't understand that I asked for a non child proofed cap, but it wasn't allowed because it was a narcotic. I told them I didn't even have a friend who had small children, and not only that I COULDN'T PRESS DOWN HARD ENOUGH TO OPEN THE PAIN MED. BOTTLE! So there I stood, not being able to hold the toast, it felt like I was trying to pick up LEAD, and I could not even get the toast to my mouth, even though I'd had a friend come by and leave me 2 pills out, I was able to get them in my mouth by leaning over and actually getting them BY my mouth and could tolerate the horrible taste from them letting them melt under my tongue!

When all the PT is done, and they've sent you out, on your last visit saying "there isn't anymore we can do here, we wish you well." Needless to say, there came the outpouring of tears!

Yes I admit I'm a bit of a whimp, but PT 3 times isn't exactly easy and they don't send you there if you don't need it.

Ok, well, I can go on and on about the pain, but as you say, others have worse, but it doesn't make ours less!

You know, David, please ALLOW yourself to have a little bit more self compassion than you seem to be willing to let yourself. Just because others do have things worse, doesn't mean you aren't due to give yourself, it doesn't mean your pain wasn't horribly unbearable, and while a lot of people suffer, you were put into this position by people you tru


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you greatly for the vote of confidence!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Thumbs up for the positive attitude. You're to be admired.


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you! I can definitely relate to the position that Pam is in. Fortunately the medical community has no question in my case, but the Social Security Administration is another story . It was hard enough for me to give in and take the neurosurgeons advice and apply, now I get to fight for it apparently.

Difficult to fight for something you don't want, even when it's needed.


Ghost32 5 years ago

David, your approach to living with pain virtually echoes my wife's attitude. Her "fake it as best she can" habit does allow quite a number of doctors and psychiatrists to misjudge her, thinking she can't possibly be as sick and hurting as she is, but it's still worth it to her (and by extension, to me).

Then again, there's the occasional aware person, either in our out of the medical profession, who gets it on first glance--sees the pain she can't TOTALLY hide from anyone who's actually looking instead of seeing what they expect to see.

As Pam says pretty much daily, "Use it or lose it". Like you, she can't do a lot physically any more but does all she can. For a gal who was a lifetime (and world class) athlete and a workaholic, that's been a challenge--but she's met it magnificently, as you have also clearly done.

Voted Up and everything but Funny.


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you so much! I am looking forward to reading your hubs.


UrsulaRose 5 years ago

I am ever so grateful that the world (and the Hub Community) has people such as David in it, who not only are able to share their stories and educate us but most importantly through their 'words of wisdom' they help us to 'pull our head in' and get on with making the most out of living (for we are a long time dead as my father would say).

Truly inspirational hub article. I am glad to have hopped onto it!


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you greatly for reading and commenting. I enjoy reading your hubs. All the best to you also!


Bretsuki profile image

Bretsuki 5 years ago from California USA

Hello David, this is a powerful piece of writing. I can see how you are creating a style for your pages, that is strongly and very well written. Keep it up.

I cannot say I know what you are goinf through, but you talk od similar feelings as those I feel many days with my blindness. Voted up and awesome. All the best.


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you for commenting! To be honest I was shocked to see a comment coming from outside hub pages and even more so from anyone I know. Thanks again and hang in there.


Frannie 5 years ago

Wow, I know you personally for years, since you were born and never realized how pragmatic and also how strong you are inside! Of course, I've done enough complaining and whining for everyone in the past 7 years since my own "disability" and pain. But never thought of it as you do. Sure, people can tell, about your pain . .it's in our faces. Why burden others with that? What's the point? I'll have to totally rethink my own needs and why I have been complaining so much and whining . .is it that I want people to try to understand how difficult it is for me? What can they do about it? It just makes them feel more powerless and also psychologically likely makes them feel uncomfortable enough that they don't prefer my company. Going forward, I'll need to "get that." As we just spoke on the phone, I'm going to try to find a "support group" where it will be safe and appropriate to voice my feelings and everyone else there will too . .and when we leave that room . .we can close the door on the whining and trying to get sympathy. I must change my life around, it's the only thing I have left in my power. Rather than burden others and expect to get more "company" that way, I'll need to try to find other ways to attract people who will be happy to be with me in spite of my limitations. Great thought for the Day!!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working