It hasn't always been easy for Good Samaritan Sister Mary-Lynne Cochrane to speak publicly about her experience living with chronic pain. Source: The Good Oil.
But in doing so, Sr Mary-Lynne has helped raise awareness about the millions of Australians who face chronic pain daily, and to help them access better pain management strategies.
Last month, Sr Mary-Lynne was given the opportunity to raise the issue in person with the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, at Parliament House in Canberra.
The occasion was the Annual General Meeting of Painaustralia, the nation’s leading pain advocacy body, and Sr Mary-Lynne was to deliver the opening address.
“I was excited that I had the opportunity to speak to him face-to-face,” Sr Mary-Lynne told The Good Oil. “I thought, ‘this is a man who could make a difference’.”
As well as speaking to Mr Hunt, Sr Mary-Lynne spoke to 70 healthcare professionals, advocates and consumers who were attending the meeting.
In a very honest and engaging address, Sr Mary-Lynne explained how, since her early 20s, she has lived with an undiagnosed form of arthritis which has led to more than 20 surgeries, “constant chronic pain” and, until recently, dependence on a range of prescription opioids.
“Chronic pain and the side-effects of heavy pain-killers took a massive toll on my life,” said Sr Mary-Lynne.
“[The pain-killers] made me sleepy, I put on weight, and my pain still became uncontrollable. All this took its toll on me emotionally and I experienced depression.”
A major turning point for Sr Mary-Lynne came about five years ago, when she discovered a pain program at Sydney’s Greenwich Hospital which introduced her to a multidisciplinary approach to pain management. This program included support from pain physicians, physiotherapists, psychologists and nutritionists – and for Sr Mary-Lynne, was “by far, the most effective intervention” she had experienced.
“This experience taught me to manage my pain rather than let pain manage me,” she said.
In collaboration with Painaustralia, Sr Mary-Lynne initiated an online petition with Change.org in December last year. To date, it has nearly 5,000 supporters, who have joined her call to Australia’s politicians to create better services and support for people with chronic pain, and better rebates through Medicare for allied healthcare.
Sister’s story captures Minister’s attention (The Good Oil)
Better health care for Australians with chronic pain (Change.org)