Meet Nicole — An advocate for those suffering from chronic pain.
Q: What is your role in health research?
A: I am a graduate research assistant in the Kramer Lab at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD), where we study the neurophysiology of pain.
Q: What is your research area of interest, and what led you to that interest?
A: My research focuses on pain and specific factors that affect its perception. I was drawn to this area of research because of my own experiences with severe chronic pain. It is an elusive experience which is subjective by nature, so increasing awareness about it is essential.
Q: What does your average day at work look like?
A: My days are highly variable. Sometimes I am collecting data with participants, which involves safe and controlled experiments. Other times I am on my computer writing, reading or organizing data. No study is the same, but all involve some form of pain!
Q: What is one of the proudest moments of your career?
A: Some of my proudest moments have been with my work at Pain BC, an organization for people with chronic pain. I really enjoy working closely with people and helping them face difficult realities. Two of my group members have recently decided to return to higher education, which they attribute to the work we did as a group accepting what it means to live with chronic pain.
Q: What motivates you?
A: My personal hardships have taught me many things, one of them being that chronic pain is an invisible condition that is often dismissed, minimized or ignored. From diet and sleep, to social interactions and mood, the impact of chronic pain can feel ceaseless. My experience with chronic pain motivates me to help others who are suffering to forge a life despite their struggles.
Q: What is your healthiest habit?
A: I find I have to make time for exercise six days per week or my chronic pain gets worse. Even when I am very busy and stressed, I am committed to prioritizing movement.
Q: What is your favourite book?
A: My favourite book is The Art of Racing in the Rain. I have read it far too many times, and I highly recommend adding it to your reading list if you have not already.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
A: I would travel back to Malaysia where I was born and raised, along with other countries in Southeast Asia. I really miss the people, food and warmth!
Q: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
A: In my young adulthood, I was debilitated by a broken back. I spent countless days not being able to get out of bed, let alone go to class, study or see friends. It was a really dark time for me, and my future seemed impossible. Looking back, I wish I could tell myself how my strength and resilience in those times now lets me help other people going through similar experiences.