As a woman who has lived with the devastating effects of chronic pain for nearly 33 years, I feel blessed to share my experiences and encourage others facing a similar struggle. My journey with chronic pain began with a minor ballet injury in my right hamstring when I was 21 years old, but that was only the beginning. My injury had triggered the onset of a chronic pain disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Over the next 13 years, I fought to find a diagnosis as doctors, one after another, told me it was all in my head. I was left bedridden for a decade and unable to speak for five years while the pain spread throughout my body and attacked my vocal cords. I felt utterly alone. This lack of belief in me, and the terrible pain I was experiencing, led to feelings of anger, depression, and eventually thoughts of suicide. I felt doubted and dismissed because I was a woman. I never imagined I might someday turn my suffering into something of value.
Through the love and support of my life partner, John, I was able to let go of the negative and began to reinvent myself. Finally, and most importantly, I accepted suffering as an intimate part of me and, indeed, my new normal. I found a voice as a healthcare reform advocate and launched For Grace to help other women with pain. Helping women heal and make positive choices has brought blessings into my life – a physical remission and emotional healing beyond anything I could have imagined. I know how precious each moment is and on a daily basis, I experience the great reward of helping people. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.
Watch Her Story
It is my privilege to be able to share my story as part of the Pain Matters Documentary, produced by the Discovery Channel. Watch the full documentary to hear more about my life and the experiences of others with chronic pain. You can also watch a preview of my story.
Cynthia Toussaint is the founder and spokesperson of For Grace, an organization that promotes better care and wellness for women in pain. Toussaint championed and gave key testimony at two California Senate hearings – one was dedicated to CRPS awareness, the second explored the gender bias and chronic under-treatment of women in pain. Her current Step Therapy bill, a six-year effort at this stage, will reform an unethical prescription practice used by the health insurance industry to save money in a way that increases the suffering of California pain patients. She is the author of Battle for Grace: A Memoir of Pain, Redemption and Impossible Love. For more about the author and dealing with chronic pain please visit ForGrace.org.
Cynthia Toussaint serves as a paid consultant for Teva Pharmaceuticals.