Most people who have talked to me in the last few months have neck problems. It is a cliché to call something a pain in the neck. If something is difficult or someone is bothersome, we call it a pain in the neck. Everybody who has had neck pain understands the origins of the cliché.

I have broken several bones during my life. I have had surgery on my ears more than ten times. I had my appendix and gallbladder removed. I have had a few hernias repaired.

But as several people have pointed out to me in the last 18 months, a sharp pain in a person’s neck is incredibly frustrating. As other things go wrong in my life, they all happen while I also get to deal with neck pain.

It eliminates all patience when things go wrong.

It keeps you awake at night.

It makes long drives seem longer.

I have tried several things to make the pain go away. I have seen nine different doctors trying to make the pain stop. The first doctor I saw said I needed surgery to fuse a couple of vertebrae. I told him I didn’t want surgery because you never hear stories about someone having only one neck surgery. It was a bus I wasn’t willing to get on.

But last week, I ran out of options. So, next month I’m having surgery.

During a phone call with my sister, Nancy, I gave her the update on my neck. I point out that although my neck pain was a big deal to me, others had worse situations, and I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself.

Both of us have friends with cancer undergoing radical treatment. I have relatives in hospice. Who am I to complain of neck pain?

Then Nancy gave me some great advice. She said, “You can only deal with what you have been given.”


Life isn’t a game of figuring out who has it the worst. Life isn’t about judging one situation versus another situation.

Sure, I was better off than being in hospice, but it doesn’t make my neck feel better. It still hurts, and I need to deal with it.

The second part of what Nancy said hit home with me. I need to deal with my situation.

I can’t simply do nothing.

Beyond physically fixing myself, I also need to handle the situation emotionally. I need to let people around me know I am on edge because I am in pain. Then, I need to figure out how to balance my life so my emotions aren’t razor-thin.

Why should the people around me wonder what the deal is with me? Of course, I don’t need to take things to the opposite extreme to make my life into a pity party (after all, many people have things much worse than I do).