The aim of this study was to uncover and understand the reality of living with chronic, intractable nonmalignant back pain, as it is understood by sufferers themselves. A narrative autoethnographic research design was chosen, enabling me to interact with participants during the interview process, as well as have the opportunity to further explore my own experiences, as a long time sufferer of chronic, intractable nonmalignant back pain. Thematic analysis of participant interviews, and a deep, introspective scrutiny of my own journey, resulted in four stories being written. These stories illustrate the startlingly similar experiences we share. Although each story is written around one central character, they are in fact composite characters, representing the participants’ experiences as well as my own. The stories are: ‘The merry-go-round: Searching for a cure’, describing the endless visits to various specialists, in search of the elusive ‘cure’. ‘Mourning the loss’, illustrating the grief-like process we must go through when it becomes apparent that a cure is not possible and pain will be with us for the rest of our lives. ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’, giving a snapshot of issues facing us in our daily lives, and ‘Here we go again’, a description of a ‘typical’ pain management hospital stay. A fifth story, ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’, was added following a bizarre emergency admission I was forced to endure during the course of my research. It is therefore a story where I am the central character. These stories illustrate the impact chronic back pain has on a sufferer’s life, ranging from loss of mobility to an altered body image. They also illustrate the struggle to maintain normality, including masking the pain and facing labelling and stigma. These stories identify and demonstrate the often hidden aspects of chronic intractable back pain, and have the power to inform practicing nurses, students, teachers and the community of the ‘lived experience’.
|White, Susan Patricia, firstname.lastname@example.org
|Australian Catholic University. School of Nursing and Midwifery
|Australiasian Digital Theses Program
|http://www.acu.edu.au/disclaimer.cfm, Copyright Susan Patricia White
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