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A pain-free lifetime: How can you experience joy without accompanied despair?

Pam Stone
Pam Stone

Perhaps you saw this fascinating story on the evening news: A 71-year-old Scottish woman named Jo Cameron has made it to this point in life never once feeling pain.

Wait, what??


And further more, until age 66, as far as Jo was concerned, there was no abnormality about herself whatsoever until she received orthopedic surgery for a condition called bilateral pantrapezial osteoarthritis, which for normal people creates stiffness, pain and swelling at the base of the thumb. For you and me, this would be suspected if you felt great discomfort trying to grip and turn a child-proof container of pain meds for arthritis. In Jo’s case, her surgeon described the deterioration and deformity of her right thumb as “significant,” yet to Jo, she felt nothing. And so her doctor began to investigate.


When questioned, Jo also described going through life with frequent cuts, bruises and burns while feeling nothing and noting her injuries healed very quickly, saying, “I just thought it was normal.”


She also described childbirth as “a tickle.” Sailing though childbirth without an epidural, she cheerfully informed other young mothers-to-be not to worry, that the pain “wasn’t as bad as people say it is.”


I kind of want to smack her for that, regardless if she felt it or not.


It turns out that Jo, according to researchers, has a never-before-seen gene mutation of a gene known as FAAH-OUT, and as one might expect, they are delving deeper in an attempt to develop gene therapy to control pain that doesn’t include opioids.


And if all of that isn’t staggering enough, what truly caught my attention was that Jo also declares she has “never suffered from anxiety or depression.”


I cannot even imagine.


Never? Really? Never nervous before getting married, or speaking in front of a group of people? No pounding heart after being caught out by parents for cutting school or nearly stepping on a snake in the garden? Learning to drive on narrow Scottish roads was met with a “meh?”


Never depressed during changing hormones? Are you kidding me? No despair when hubby forgets a wedding anniversary or buys a new blender for your birthday? Simply shrugging when let down or betrayed by a friend? No grinding anxiety, worrying about unpaid bills or if your teenager is out far past curfew?


How amazing, I thought with envy, reading the article for the second and third time in the British Journal of Anesthesia. How lucky, how incredible to go through life, blithely serene, completely even keeled, with never a blue day. Ever.


But then, wait a minute. A well-balanced life is exactly that, isn’t it? It’s not all roses on one side, or all manure on the other. It’s sometimes getting what we want, and other times accepting what we’re given, and somehow managing to live fluidly and contentedly within it all. And sometimes the gifts we’re given are even sweeter after feeling quite low.


Indeed, the darkest hole, the deepest despair, can serve to make us acutely aware of how life changing joy is when she rises within us like the sun.


Especially on Easter morning.
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