Cancer pain is such an important topic and one that’s not often talked about enough. Pain is very individual and in many cases, kept quiet. There are lots of reasons why people do not openly talk about their pain with their healthcare team and/or loved ones. Here are some reasons why people keep their pain to themselves:
- Fear of being seen as weak
- Thinking that the pain is temporary
- Not wanting to complain/be difficult
- Concerned that others will worry
- Resigning to this being part of a new normal
Cancer pain is not only hard on our bodies, but also on our spirits. When we’re feeling good physically, we often feel good emotionally. By opening up about your cancer pain, you can get the help you need (and deserve!) from professionals and loved ones.
Recently, a mother and son came to my support group. The mother was noticeably in pain, so her son did the speaking. He shared that his mother is very fatigued and sleeps a lot. Knowing the importance of exercise (both physically and mentally) he wants her to get out of bed. He wishes that she would have more energy. The group talked about how debilitating cancer pain can be and that sleeping and/or staying in bed is often a way of coping with pain. They also acknowledged how helpless family members can feel. By asking questions, the group and I tried to get a better understanding of her pain level. We encouraged the son to talk to his mother’s medical team about her pain and suggested that they also look into working with a pain specialist. After hearing the group’s thoughts, the son expressed his appreciation. His mother seemed relieved to hear our suggestions, and the group members felt good knowing that they were able to offer guidance and comfort from their own experiences.
Willing away cancer pain is not the answer. Having your pain be known (because no one knows your body better than you!) can help you get the support and resources you need to best manage your pain.
What are your cancer pain experiences?
Is pain a topic that you feel comfortable discussing? Why or why not?
What would you like people to know about your pain?
What has been helpful?
What has not been helpful?
We look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.
Thanks for sharing!
Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.
The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.