I’ve had lingering pain from cancer treatment—nothing horrible, but enough to cause me concern. Recently, I heard from a reader who was worried about bone pain in the chest area—she was sure it was a recurrence. I told her I’d had the same pain and it eventually went away, but she was worried until she had a bone scan that came back clear.
Bless our hearts, we all do this. Feel a pain, panic, talk ourselves out of that panic, then back into it. Get tested. Regret the test. Delight in the results.
You know the drill. So I am starting a discussion about pain, in the hopes that we can share a bit of what we have been through and shed some light on what is normal after treatment.
About half of all breast cancer patients have pain following treatment.
• In the chest bone, most likely from radiation. My surgeon told me not to worry unless the pain woke me up at night. This never got that bad—in fact in came and went and was mostly a moderate and dull ache. It has since gone—it lasted about three years. Of course, if you Google “bone pain in breast bone,” you will immediately get to a site dealing with cancer metastases. Sheesh. So don’t Google it.
• Around my surgery site. Even after nearly six years, my surgery still hurts—sometimes a shooting pain, sometimes a dull ache, sometimes nothing at all. The breast has nerves than can be cut in surgery; they will not recover. This pain comes less often than it used to, but it still pops up.
• Lymphedema, or pain in the armpit. I have only slight pain here—perhaps because I assiduously did exercises from Thriving After Breast Cancer by Sherry Lebed Davis. Still, this is common and normal.
Breastcancer.org has a good discussion on how to deal with pain related to cancer treatment.
What’s important, though, is that you understand that some pain is natural and it does not mean that the disease is recurring. And the more we share what we’ve been through, the more we understand our new normal.