Millions of Americans suffer from a debilitating medical condition, a condition that can prevent them from performing routine tasks, rob them of their livelihoods and even destroy their wills to live.
To make matters worse, the condition is invisible. Those who suffer from it sometimes don't get the help and understanding that they would with a visible impairment.
The condition is chronic pain, and it affects millions of people in the United States.
Dr. Richard Rauck has spent his career helping people deal with pain. He is president and founder of the Carolinas Pain Institute and the Center for Clinical Research, director of the pain management fellowship program and a clinical associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, founder of the Sceptor Pain Foundation and a member of the executive board of the World Institute of Pain.
Last year, he started PainPathways, a quarterly magazine devoted to helping people who are living with pain learn and cope. Its target audience also includes doctors and other medical personnel who deal with people in pain. The magazine, which was initially distributed only in doctors' offices, is now available in Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton booksellers and by subscription.
Rauck is editor-in-chief, and most stories receive his editing approval. But the articles are aimed at a general audience and written so that laymen can understand them.
The magazine, which will soon reach a circulation of 100,000, has not yet turned a profit. When it does, the money will go to the Sceptor Foundation, a nonprofit education-and-research foundation aimed at developing new pain medicines. There has been talk about expanding the magazine's circulation to other countries and publishing it in different languages, Rauck said.
"We'll see where that leads."
The magazine gives people a chance to hear stories from ordinary people and celebrities, including Montel Williams and Elizabeth Edwards, who shared their feelings and frustrations about living in pain. Williams has dealt with multiple sclerosis for many years, and Elizabeth Edwards is fighting cancer. Each edition also contains a directory of clinical trials, an events calendar and a pain resource guide.
"Until you have lived with it or had it, you don't understand," Rauck said. "That's the story I hear from everybody. Pain is so subjective. It's not like having your leg cut off or being blind or being deaf, illnesses people can understand."
Jeanne Qualkinbush is a Winston-Salem woman who suffers from constant arm and leg pain from reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a chronic, incurable neurological disorder. Qualkinbush, now 46, had been a late bloomer who went back to college in her 30s. She was thriving in her job as an associate team leader at Whole Foods Market when she developed pain in her hands after carpal tunnel surgery. The pain spread to her feet, and now it affects both arms and both legs.
"I really enjoyed my job; it was a great place to grow," she said. "I was just knocking it out, just working." People who develop RSD tend to be like her, people "who get smacked down when we least expect it," she said. She went from being an overachiever to being on disability.
When she first read PainPathways and saw the stories of people who were dealing with the same problems that she was, she felt less alone, she said. She also gleaned tips to help her deal with pain, such as using a Bluetooth device to help her on the telephone.
"Things you think would be simple, easy ideas don't always come to you so fast," she said. Qualkinbush found the magazine so helpful that after buying her own subscription, she sent a donation so that someone who couldn't afford the magazine could also subscribe.
Rauck and his managing editors, Shon Lawson Gilmore and Amy Taylor North, have been touched by the response the magazine has received from people who haven't had a forum to express their feelings until now. He sees plenty of potential for continued growth of the magazine as new treatments, devices and drugs reach the market.
"We should be able to stay ahead of the curve," he said. The magazine will soon release its sixth issue.
"It's a way to reach a lot of lives and make a difference in their lives," he said.
■ Janice Gaston can be reached at 727-7364 or at email@example.com.
■ For more information on the magazine, check the Web site www.painpathways.org or call 714-8389.
June 16, 2009