Hi, I’m Jo, thanks for checking out the Endless Possibilities Initiative and for wanting to learn more about me and Beth.
I have wanted to do something like this for a few years now and I’m unbelievably excited that it’s coming to fruition. I wanted to do it because for so many years I felt I had nowhere to turn, I felt alone, I felt scared and lost and uncertain.
I don’t want others to feel that same way. I want them to have a place where they can go that they feel welcome, understood, appreciated, and supported. Somewhere they will always be accepted and encouraged. Somewhere they can be themselves and be empowered with skills and strategies to help them live active, meaningful, enjoyable lives.
My own pain issues started in January of 2010 when I awkwardly stepped off a fire engine on a routine call and onto a path of injury, pain and uncertainty. I battled it out in the work comp system, often feeling doubted, dismissed and denied. I was anxious, depressed, and stressed.
I was in unbearable pain despite going to physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy, despite having injections and hip surgery. I didn’t sit on furniture for two years. I barely left my house. I stopped talking to my friends and family.
I was forced to medically retire from my job as firefighter paramedic. I was lost. I felt unworthy, broken, ashamed.
But I went back to school, where I studied pain science and started learning that there was more to pain than just what was going on in my hip. I learned that chronic pain has more to do with changes in our nervous and immune systems than with our muscles and joints.
I started going to professional pain conferences, meeting pain practitioners and researchers. I learned that there were things that I could do to change my experience of pain, that I had some power, some control.
Over time I came to accept the reality of my pain and was able to take steps to change the reality of my life. I shifted my focus away from being rid of the pain to one of figuring out how to live with the pain.
I started moving again, understanding that I wasn’t causing myself damage by doing so. I began meditating and learned about body scans and breathing techniques. I spent time out in nature and took pictures. I wrote, read literature, colored and learned how to cook. I reached out to friends and family. I talked with my husband, John. Like, really talked. I cuddled with my dog, Buster.
Eventually I was able to start hiking again, which led to snowboarding and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It led to camping again, to road trips and travel and adventure. To life. To really living life again.
I found myself, found my way again. I learned the power of loving and being loved. Of figuring out what really matters to me and pursuing those things as best as I can, even when they’re just simple things: being outside, writing, cooking, taking pictures, reading a book by the fireplace, going for walks with John and Buster.
Along the way I started a blog called MyCuppaJo where I share my insights and experiences. I’m writing a book (for too many years now…) that I hope to finish one day.
I have become a pain patient advocate along the way, advocating for the integration of the lived experience into the study, understanding, research, treatment, and management of chronic pain. I am co-chair of the International Association for the Study of Pain presidential task force to establish a Global Alliance of Pain Patient Advocates and the first Patient and Public Partnership Editor for the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.
I also volunteer with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) where I do group recovery workouts for competitive ski-racers and teach people with disabilities how to snowboard.
NSCD is where I met Beth. A meeting and a friendship I’m so grateful for. And that’s how we got here, to the Endless Possibilities Initiative.
I do have limits. I can’t do the things I once did. I am not the same person I once was.
And that’s alright, because this is awesome.