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In November last year, INK: Skryf in Afrikaans had a competition prompt that had me thinking. They wanted the writers and poets on the platform to be a voice for health. Most everyone wrote about cancer or Alzheimer’s. Those are important topics to cover, yet they are rather extreme. I’ve lost loved ones to both diseases, so I’m not being heartless or anything. I just think that if you’re going to be a voice for health-issues, you should look at the silent killers. Chronic pain, for example. It is so misunderstood, even by health professionals.

Though I’ve exaggerated a bit – though, not by much – how carpal tunnel affects a writer, this story was still seen as meh by my Afrikaans readers. Well, I’m working on sending my worst carpal tunnel days in a curse through the internet… let’s see who’s crying then.


Roadmap of Veins

By Ronel Janse van Vuuren

It was getting even more difficult to bend my fingers. My rings haven’t fit in ages and short nails just look better than anything else these days. Sometimes the veins standing out on my hands look like a roadmap that could be followed a lot easier than the life lines that so-called palm readers translate.

The pain caused me to stop typing for a moment. Pain medicines don’t really work for carpal tunnel. Rest and ice bring momentary relief. But as my fellow journalists continued typing around me, the realisation that I would one day be without work because of a silly side-effect of a medicine I had to drink for a deadly disease sank in.

I closed my eyes and tried to relax. It didn’t help to get angry.

‘Are you sleeping soundly?’

My eyes shot open. The editor stood in front of me. I swallowed heavily.

‘Is your article done?’

Words escaped me.

He sighed and glanced around.

‘Listen, I understand that writing is hard. Some days more than others. But I can’t give you special treatment just because you’re my wife’s best friend.’

Anger and something else reared its head, yet I remained silent.

He watched me worriedly before leaving.

My eyes burned. I hoped that it was only the sharp light of the computer screen. Daniel was nice enough even if he did make me feel like a naughty child sometimes – especially when he shakes his head over the short stories I write whenever I get a chance.

I’d experienced pain-free days, days where I could write for hours, days where stories poured out of me and my fingers glided over the keyboard. Then there were the days where nothing, not even Deep Heat, did anything more than make my eyes tear up…

Yet it wasn’t considered a serious ailment by most. When I would drop cups because my hands stopped feeling, I would hear comments about my clumsiness getting worse with age. Like being in my mid-thirties in the twenty-first-century was the same as back in the eighteenth… It was the same story when I just dropped anything else. It was a joke to everyone else; sometimes I laugh along with tears in my eyes. Especially when someone pretends to drop something and then laugh like it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever done.

The cursor flickered on the screen and I read what I’ve written thus far. I could feel heat building as my anger searched for an escape. I couldn’t believe that there were people who would exploit pain like that. I gnashed my teeth and tried not to shiver as I continued writing. Yet, I had to close my eyes for a moment as the photos came back to me.

I clenched my hands together; the pain reminded me that I’m still alive.

I knew that I’m not alone: many suffer. Even dogs.

Like the poor animals I were writing about. Big dogs were susceptible to arthritis. And a so-called pharmaceutical company had exploited that fact. People would do anything to stop their animals from suffering and spent a lot of money. And now their pets were dead.

My fingers flew over the keyboard as I wove in the last facts that I’ve recovered. I clenched my jaw to keep myself from crying out in pain. My fingers and wrists were aching, burning, as I typed.

Some types of arthritis were hereditary. Like rheumatoid arthritis that not only affected the joints painfully, but also changed their form over time. I feared the day that it would team up with the carpal tunnel I already had, causing me to lose all functionality in my hands. Like most women in my family…

There’s no cure for arthritis or carpal tunnel. Still people treated it like it was nothing. They had no idea how blessed they were to have the full use of their hands. The jokers didn’t know what it was like to live with pain and still do everything they do – sometimes better.

I finished my article and sent it to the editor.

My hands were blue and purple from the veins standing on attention. The pain was nothing: I’ve ensured that the criminals behind the deaths of over a dozen dogs wouldn’t go unpunished.

Some days it was good working for a large national newspaper. I smothered my hands with Deep Heat contently while glaring at the dilly girl in the cubicle across from me who’ve once again opened her mouth to complain about the smell. She quickly turned away.

I grinned and opened a new document to write a short story that had been swirling around my subconscious for a while.

What do you think? Do you suffer from carpal tunnel or another form of chronic pain? What are your thoughts about chronic pain and chronic pain sufferers?

*On a side note: I’m staring into the abyss that is burnout and the abyss is staring back. As a result, there won’t be any folklore posts this month. There will, however, be the regular Sunday and Tuesday postings. And if you need a new story to read, I did update my Stories on Scrolls book on Wattpad with a new dark fantasy short story (check the sidebar for the link).*

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