Pain’s part of the game

By Dom Cioffi

He told me that a lot of people actually fall asleep once the procedure begins, and while I was hopeful that this would happen, somehow I knew it wasn’t going to be the case.

“Ok,” I stated. “Lets get started. I’m tired of being in pain.” And with that I reclined back and shut my eyes.

A little less than a week earlier is when I first noticed that something was awry.

I had awoken on that Saturday morning with a slight headache that I attributed to the martini I had consumed the night prior when friends were over visiting.

I tossed back a couple aspirin and thought little more about it until several hours later when it occurred to me that the headache was still lingering. Again, I chalked it up to the alcohol and powered through until evening, at which time I climbed into bed and fell asleep.

I remember waking up early the next morning and being acutely aware that the headache from the day before was now much more intense. After finding my way into the bathroom, I suddenly realized that the pain was more concentrated on the side of my face.

And then it hit me: this was no hangover; this was a toothache.

From there, the pieces started falling into place: for several months I had noticed that a back molar in my mouth was becoming more and more sensitive to hot and cold liquids. But like most thickheaded adults, I wrongly assumed that the discomfort would eventually fade on its own and I would be fine.

I was now reaping the benefits of not alerting my dentist to this issue.

That Sunday was miserable for me. I tried to distract myself with television and a few minor projects, but no matter what I did, the pain was constant. So, the first thing I did the next morning was contact my dentist who was nice enough to fit me in at lunchtime later that day. Unfortunately, by the time I sat down in his chair, I could barely stand the pain. Within minutes he had concluded that I needed a root canal, a procedure that I was familiar with only by name.

However, I had also contracted an infection and that would have to be addressed with antibiotics before he could perform the root canal. My shoulders slumped when he announced that we would have to wait four days before addressing the underlying problem. Moments later I slunk out of his office with a prescription for antibiotics and pain relievers.

That night I took my pills and settled into bed only to awake at 3 a.m. with massive chills. Apparently the infection had now taken hold and my body was now under full assault.

The next two days were a blur for me as I fought off the infection while being completely inebriated on pain pills. I’d like to tell you that I was enjoying some intoxicating “me” time, but that was hardly the case. When Thursday morning finally arrived, I drove myself to the dentist’s office at 7 a.m. and excitedly told the receptionist that I had never looked forward to a dental appointment more than this. She laughed and then led me back to a small room where the procedure would take place. This is when I got the speech about falling asleep.

One hour and seven shots of Novocain later and I was far from sleeping. In fact, when I rose from the chair, I was in excruciating pain. My dentist seemed concerned, but I assured him I was fine. However, by the time I reached my truck in the parking lot, I could barely function.

I had initially planned on driving in to work, but the intense pain had me rushing back to my home. Once there I paced back and forth through my living room for over a half hour, tears streaming down my face as I waited for the pain pills (I had taken a double dose) to kick in.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to lie down and relax. Admittedly, I was highly medicated at this point, but again, it was far from enjoyable.

Thankfully, by the next day I was somewhat back to normal, but there is no doubt in my mind that the half hour after my root canal was the most pain I had ever experienced in my life.

That experience made me watch this week’s feature, “Cake,” with different eyes.

Starring Jennifer Aniston, “Cake” is the story of a troubled woman who is riddled with chronic pain following a horrific car accident.

It’s easy to write Ms. Aniston off as a pretty Hollywood face, but her portrayal in this film was nothing short of brilliant. She was snubbed by the Oscars for a Best Actress nomination, but several other authorities have recognized the depth of this role.

I’ve seen all the other nominated women in this year’s category and there is no doubt in my mind that she should have been among them.

Check this one out if you can handle the darkness that accompanies stories about immense physical and emotional pain. This one isn’t easy to watch, but the acting is as compelling as you can get.

A painfully good “B” for “Cake.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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