09/09/2013 01:10 pm ET | Updated Nov 09, 2013

Pain's Long Reach and Powerful Grip

Ask my son about pain. He'll tell you it stole part of his childhood and all his adolescence. From the age of 11 through his 16th birthday, he has experienced sharp, burning, debilitating pain from a nerve syndrome in his left foot. He spent the better part of two years in bed, much of it learning how to stifle the screams that would inevitably come when a blanket, a hand or even a rush of air made contact with it.

Ask me or his mom about pain and we will tell you of sleepless nights, desperate searches for doctors and specialists, months spent looking for answers, quiet moments alone punctuated by deep sighs and plenty of tears. His sisters and grandparents share the same despair and frustration because his pain is a family affair. Our son's diagnosis was elusive but, likewise, so is his treatment. Little of the the recommended physical therapy, psychotherapy, biofeedback and dozens of medications are covered by insurance. The bills are steady and staggering, adding financial insult to the emotional tally which is already high.

Ask his teachers and school administrators about pain and they will tell you about a young man with an old soul. Many have described him as the most polite and respectful student they can remember. They will tell you of a boy with a strong character and innate intelligence. But his long and frequent absences have fostered in him a growing anxiety about school and the pressures of succeeding and the risk of failing in the face of seemingly overwhelming challenges. Their compassion has made the unbearable almost tolerable. Without their understanding and guidance moving forward academically would be impossible.

Ask his classmates about pain. They will tell you of friendships stolen or deferred, romances interrupted and the awkwardness of becoming reacquainted after weeks or months of his absences. Some will tell you of the rumors, teasing and bullying that often comes with school under the most normal of circumstances, now magnified by being singled out as different or ill, especially since the outward signs of his condition are not readily visible.

Ask our son about pain. He will tell you about the heavy burden it places on him along with everyone close and important to him. He will tell you that pain is real and it is personal but its reach is long and its grip is powerful.

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