Ariel Levy reports for The New Yorker on a woman who lives life completely pain-free. Yes, you heard it. Like several hundred people around the world, Joanne Cameron experiences no physical or emotional pain. What if you could live your life pain-free?
We are taught to believe no pain, no gain. The more we struggle, the more we learn, the stronger we are. It’s worth the price we pay. And, who doesn’t feel the pain?
Joanne Cameron, a 72-year old, Scotswoman is one person, among at least several hundred people. who feels no pain. She reports that she has “never worried about anything.” In fact, she did not realize she had an exceptional gene mutation that makes her very different from almost everyone in the world until she was 65. She simply thought she had a high pain threshold.
Cameron is capable of feeling good and being loving and kind. She has all her senses. But, she never gets angry, and she has no fears or anxieties. She doesn’t even experience sadness. She’s never had a fight with her husband in the 25 years they have been married.
Cameron can witness all kinds of suffering, and she can cry. But, no matter how extreme the situation, she cannot feel terrible or unhappy. She has no nagging urge to make things better. She can also move forward, seeing the glass half full.
After her son was beaten up badly and hospitalized, Cameron turned the pain most of us would feel into a hope that he didn’t die. She felt compassion for her foster child who stole all her vacation money and for the child she taught who spat in her face. And, when her mother died, she felt grateful to have had her in her life.
Physical pain is also foreign to Cameron. She did not experience pain when she broke her arm badly or during labor when delivering her two children. Or when she was burned and poked as part of testing to better understand her constitution.
Notably, Cameron only came to appreciate her exceptional situation because she needed surgeries on her hand, stiff and misshapen from arthritis, and on her hip, because she was not walking normally. A doctor noted that in both cases, she had no anesthesia during the surgeries and wanted to look more deeply into her case.
Scientists are studying Cameron with the hope of replicating her secret genetic sauce and using it on people to end their anxiety and depression. But, even if they can, it would be a mixed blessing. Yes, if you’re wishing you were Cameron, be careful what you wish for.
Remember, Cameron lives in a small, rural, safe community. She is not at risk the way most of us are. Fear keeps us from avoiding danger. And, while it may be a myth that fear of pain makes us stronger, it certainly keeps us on our toes!
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