In late 2006 my younger daughter Julie is finishing her final of her Psych degree at University of Toronto. Very bright, good student loves life. She wakes up one day in agonizing pain everywhere in her body. Her blood and other tests show that her pain is real. A few days later my older daughter Tanya, just completed her undergrad. At University of Toronto, also in Psych. Reports pains in her body too. Both girls live at home at this time. These pains get gradually worse every day. If you are thinking that she felt the pain to get some attention away from her ailing sister, how do you explain that all her joints start clicking and crunching all the time as she moves.
After at least 8 specialists have examined them both, Julie is diagnosed with a post viral neuropathy (essentially an after effect of a nasty virus). Tanya's condition is a complete mystery. Julie slowly recovers after a few months. Tanya steadily worsens. On the day Julie is able to attend school again and move out, Tanya recovers completely. Not a single symptom remains. A few weeks later she moves out to share an apartment with a friend and is able to go back to school to commence her Masters degree. My wife Dina and I sell our house and move into a more practical apartment nearer to downtown.
In August 2009 I am diagnosed with a frozen shoulder, really painful, but I am not one to let on to my family that I am in pain and I get on with my life pretty normally. The day after I am diagnosed Tanya comes to stay with us at home until school starts again. We have a very enjoyable first day doing father, daughter things and I do not tell her about my shoulder. She stays over the night with my wife Dina and I. The next morning Tanya wakes up in unbearable pain, the clicking is back, she can barely get out of bed. Off to the hospital emergency ward again. The doctors find nothing and cannot explain the clicking in every joint.
Her pain continues for a week and with regret I have to take a business trip away for six days in Europe. I call the next morning and Dina tells me Tanya has recovered, very suddenly. I am very pleased and when I get home I am so happy to see her without her pain, but the next morning the pain returns.
In desperation Tanya and my wife travel together to Johns, Hopkins in Baltimore to see some pain specialists. The day they arrive in Baltimore all her pain disappears. Tests are done but there is no pain, nothing to diagnose. The pain returns the day she comes back to our new apartment.
By this time I am thinking that there is something in our apartment she is allergic to or even worse, she is allergic to me! Her dad!
This is borne out when she returns to her own apartment and recovers spontaneously. I am so freaked out I avoid seeing her and talk to her mainly on the phone only for weeks. The link between her pain and mine is unmistakable. I experiment with this twice. She has no symptoms of pain when she is away from me for more than a day. Her pain comes back when we are close for a while. My shoulder heals mostly by summer 2010. Tanya comes to visit, she is fine all the time. I am relieved, but very concerned.
Does Tanya "absorb" the pain people she loves feel? Will this affliction follow her all her life. Or will it just go away? Is it some kind of empathy? How awful. It does not even seem that her feeling pain even reduces ours. Should she stay away and never be close to anyone she loves when they are in pain? Must she be forced to choose between living alone or being in pain? Tanya, does not for a minute believe any of this. I never told her about my frozen shoulder.