36. Metaphorising My Pain

Reproduced from Pulse – Voices from the heart of medicine (publishing personal accounts of illness and healing, fostering the humanistic practice of medicine, and encouraging healthcare advocacy), in their monthly More Voices series (short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme): “In Pain”  theme in October, 2017, on Oct. 24, 2017. [The editor has made minimal stylistic changes.]

This is more or less a brief summary of some of the 35 posted poems about my chronic neuropathic pain, illness, disability, spasm. The numbers in square brackets refer to the relevant metaphors used in the poems posted, listed on the right on the Home/Archive page.

Metaphorizing My Pain

My chronic neuropathic pain [03] is a physical reality, not a product of my imagination. It is the result of a spinal injury sustained during a “simple biopsy” [02] of a spinal cord tumor [01] detected through an MRI. The operation was performed by an eager neurosurgeon in 2004 [02]. When I woke from the anesthesia, I could hardly breathe [03]; I felt like a tight band was around my lower chest wall [03]. I also couldn’t move my legs [02, 05, 09], and they were extremely sensitive to touch [03]. Since then, the pain has expanded and intensified [12, 13,15, 17, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 33, 34, 35].

A typical dreadful day starts when I am woken up by pain all over my body [20, 23, 25]. Hot, coarse sand grains are pulsating inside my calves and thighs [03, 07, 08]; fine nails are drilling into my feet and buttocks [16]; sharp knives are plunging into my back [19.1]; needles are pricking my chest [19.2]; mallets are pounding incessantly on my arms; warm, fine sand grains are swimming inside my palms and puffed-up fingers!

It was another night with bad sleeping posture. My back must have glided off the three standing pillows propping up my back, curving my spine into a bow and pressing part of it against the air-filled pressure-reduction mattress, igniting pain all over my body. My head must have dropped forward off the pillow, compressing my cervical nerves and kindling pain in my arms and fingers.

By the time I finish my four-hour morning routine of sitting up, lying down, being hoisted onto a shower commode to toilet and shower, being hoisted back into bed, being turned left and right several times for grooming, and finally being hoisted down into my motorized wheelchair for the day, I am usually in agonizing pain. My feet feel like they’re on a tray of warm stones [08]. My calves seem to be wrapped with coarse sandpaper [08, 34]. The small, air-filled cells of my Roho cushion are pebbles under my buttocks [08]. My backrest is a stone-studded board [08].

The escalation continues with increasing power over the next 24 hours and beyond. No escape [29] except meeting the pain upfront. Just sit upright, keep my spine straight, sit still, breathe in and out very slowly [19.2, 20, 24, 33], guide the qi to the pain areas, be mindful of it [33]: I sink into the pain–identifying it, recognizing it, analyzing its nature, quality, patterns, locations, and triggers, so that I can learn to prevent it from spiraling into another almost unbearable episode [34].

Kit Loke
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

© 2018 KKLokePhD

Marine fog rolls in Half Moon Bay, California. By Jacek Walicki (edited by Chalger).
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. At https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marine_Fog_Pattern_1_crop.jpg

Lake Cerknica, by why 137 from Trieste, Italy, Uploaded by Sporti.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  At https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Ceknica_2013_(8568169722).jpg

© 2018 KKLokePhD

25. Chronic Neuropathic Pain Flare-Up (2): Fire Ants Attack

[‘Fire Ants Attack’ was published in Wordgathering,
A Journal of Disability Poetry and LiteratureVolume 9, Issue 3,
on September 11, 2015, at http://www.wordgathering.com/issue35/poetry/loke.html ]

Fire_ants_4 (1)





Here it comes:
ten contingents of thousands of fire ants
march up my toe cliffs and ridges, foot slopes and arcs.
In formation,
they hook their mandibles into thin flesh;
inject venom with their stingers,
setting my sensitive nerves on fire.

Their fire spreads up the hills of my calves,
down through knee valleys and thigh plateaus,
until it reaches the buttocks mounts.2013_bushfire_tasmania_0002
There the fire ants build their fire mounds
that burn throughout day and night.
Sometimes, the fire leaps its walls and
spreads up into the plains of my back,
burning into shoulder blades, and onwards.

Nothing can stop their march,
not even a change of posture;
even the famous pain fighters
have all lost their battles.

Only when they are satisfied, do
the fire ant troops retreat,
sometimes slowly, backing down;
sometimes suddenly, disappearing overnight.






The caves, plains, mounts, plateaus, valleys, ridges, and cliffs –
all peaceful

Alas! It’s only a Trojan celebration:
the fire ant soldiers have left their wooden horse behind;
the next attack is a sunrise away
and twice as ferocious.






© 2015 K-KLokePhD

Fire Ants. By Mokkie. CC A-S A 3.00 Unported license. via-

Bushfire, Tasmania, 2013. By Toni Fish. CCA 2.0 Generic license. via-

Fire Ant Queens Ready for Flight. By Lamiot. CC A-S A 3.0 Unported license. via-

Fire Ants on Water.  By Turnbull FL.  CC A-S A 3.0 Unported license. via-

23. Neuropathic Pain in My Body: Landscape and Temperature Variations

Sitting in the wheelchair,
my body becomesCSIRO_ScienceImage_392_Naturally_Occurring_Fire
a landscape of sharp variations
with contrasting temperatures.

The foot bushlands are alight
with an inextinguishable, furious fire
day and night.

The calf volcanoes, rumbling
with restless sparklers inside,
ascend sharply to
snow-capped knee tops.800px-Mt.Fuji_from_Mt.Tohnodake

The icy thigh plateaus give way
to a torso wall weighing heavily
on the buttock mounds
sitting on warm, sharp rocks.

The upper back torso wall is cut
by razor-sharp frozen slates,
driven deep into the scapula caves
by movements.800px-India_-_Matheran_-_18_-_Monsoon_rains_(2799493740)

The chest wall is bombarded
with torrential monsoon rains
of sharp needles,
changing its temperature
from icy cold to warm.

The shoulder plateaus
are rigid, stiff and cold,
giving rise to a stiff neck column.

The whole torso is divided into two regions
by a ring of fire
just below the rib cage–
sensitive above, numb below
with neuropathic pain.


Bush Fire, Australia. Photo by CSIRO, Australia.  CCA 3.0 Unported Licnse.

Snow Capped Mt Fuji. Photo by Σ64.  CC A-S A 3.0 Unported License.

Monsoon Rains, India. Photo by McKay Savage from London, UK.
CCA 2.0 Generic License.

20. Chronic Neuropathic Pain Flare-Up (1): Guerrilla Attacks


Chronic neuropathic pain attacks like guerrilla fighters.
They strike at my feet viciously
till they burn with pulsating pain.
Then they attack the calves, thighs and buttocks
in brief, rapid fire.413px-Royal_Marines_conducting_FIBUA_training_at_Copehill_Down._MOD_45148950
Invisible and inaudible crackling
of an automatic machine gun.

My lower body from waist down to toes
now sits on burning sites.

They suddenly appear along my spine, raiding, ambushing, sabotaging,
attacking with hand grenades,
location by location,
moment to moment,
until the whole spine is bombarded.

I can hardly sit upright
or lean against
even the softest memory foam.

they assault my shoulder blades,
plunging bayonets deep underneath,
sending ripples of burning, stabbing pain
all across my upper back,
with invisible bleeding.

Realistic pain:
Impossible for me to lie on my back.

Frequent but unpredictable, random attacks
with machine gun firing.800px-thumbnail
Every nerve in my body is their target.
Every part of my body is their battlefield.
Invisible and inaudible crackling.

Aggravated pain all over my body —
from toes to shoulders,
front and back,
left and right.

Lie still. Relax.
Inhale.  Exhale.
Inhale     .     Exhale     .
I n h a l e          .          E x h a l e        .
I  n  h  a  l  e          .          E x h a l e          .
I    n    h    a    l    e            .            E   x   h   a   l   e            .

a veil descends onto the battlefield.
It gets heavier and heavier,
drowning the machine guns firing;
pacifying the guerrilla fighters.

The attacks have stopped.
For the time being.





Kardo_Rinktine_02. (Kretinga district partisans) (a Lithuanian guerrilla group). Photo (1945-50) by unknown author, uploaded by Julius Kanarskas.
Photo in public domain, via – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kardo_rinktine_02.jpg

After a hand grenade was thrown.
Photo (2008) by POA (Phot) Sean Clee, MOD, UK.
Open Government License v1.0. via – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Marines_conducting_

Sub-Machine Gun and Rifle with Bayonet. Soviet Guerrilla.1943.
Russian State Archives. A Ukrainian or Ukrainian SSR work, in public domain  via – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soviet_guerilla.jpg

Machine Gun Firing. Photo by Marcus Rauhenberger.
Public domain photograph from defenseimagery.mil. via – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_U.S._Soldier_

As if asking, ‘Why?’  Author unknown.
US National Archives and Administration.  ARC ID 531446. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Long_Khanh_Province,_



© 2015 K-KLokePhD