I Bravely Voiced My Cancer Pain and Chose Radiation


I'm thankful that I spoke up about my bone pain related to cancer metastases.

cartoon image of blogger and metastatic breast cancer survivor, Liz McSpadden

Physical pain isn’t something I usually have to deal with, not because I don’t have it, but I have a high pain tolerance in general. But last September, I started having really bad pain in my right hip, a stabbing pain that traveled in my groin and pelvis. I recall it vividly as driving was one of the hardest activities because it took all of my patience to break without screaming in pain. Getting in and out of the car was mildly difficult, but I dealt with it.

Fast forward three months as I voiced this pain, but I didn’t pursue active pain meds, nor focus on handling much of the pain. My cancer was still progressing — and still growing — so how could I focus on this hip pain?

In January 2023, my left hip started bothering me a little, so I saw my orthopedist and asked what else I should do. After getting some steroids and then another MRI, we determined that it was probably best I find an oncology orthopedistconsidering my stage 4 breast cancer and bone lesions.

My February 2023 scans showed more progression on my left hips and legs, as well as my sternum and pelvis. By the first of March 2023, my pain was off the charts. Both hips of mine really hurt to sit for long periods of time, and I could feel the differences now in pain. I kept asking myself, “how did I let it get this bad? How did I do this to myself?”

My therapist, doctors, husband and cheer team all remind me that it was not a decision I was ignoring, but instead, I was acting on it all along, just not prioritizing it as much compared to stopping my aggressive breast cancer. When I mentioned radiation to my oncologist, he was in huge favor of treating my pain because he knew that I’d waited long enough to treat my pain. Yet, I still felt that I fell short in acting soon enough. Had I pushed my pain deep down and subsidized it, shrinking and shredding its existence so I could tolerate other things? You bet I did.

While I knew I needed help for my hips and pelvis via radiation, I was not going to take any pain management medications because I was uncomfortable with them. Physically, I become ill with themand they create a lot of GI issues. I viewed those pills as a short-term solution as well, knowing that if I got radiation to my hips, pelvis and spine that would be a much long-term approach. Quality of life, care and being able to do all of life’s activities was extremely important to me, and pills seemed like it wouldn’t give me any of those things.

My radiologist ordered 10 sessions of radiation to both hips, spine and pelvis, and I began them at the end of April 2023. He told me that after a few sessions I would experience some relief and I would start to feel better. Even before radiation began, I felt hopeful about this treatment because I knew I had chosen the right path for my future. After a few sessions of radiation, immediate relief came, and my pain started to melt away. Incredible hope and relief I felt, knowing that again, I advocated for myself, and chose correctly.

After 10 sessions, I am so happy and relieved to say how much better the pain is. It’s not that I didn’t believe it would work, but my brave little voice for my own pain has finally come out. Partially scared of still having more pain, or having to deal more with it, both definitely I was, and trying to navigate more of stage 4 breast cancer with pain was the biggest fear I had.

It’ amazing how voicing physical pain has led me to relief, freedom and eventually some level of normalcy. We can still be strong enough to go through it, and admit that we still have it.

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