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“Pain and Suffering” – A Close Examination of Our Feelings as We Walk With Cancer

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Pain and Suffering.

Two words, that in the course of our journeys, will help to define who we are and what we have endured to reach this stage of our lives.

Annabelle (Kim) had opened a post a few months back and was talking about a “magic pill” that could take away our pain and bad memories, so that we would not have to remember all of those days in our lives, after our Cancer had moved in with us.

I initially responded to her thread, but I found that the topic resonated with me and I’ve spent the last six months examining this subject on more than one occasion. I felt the time was right to open this post and talk about this subject.

Now, I do understand what Annabelle was trying to tell us. Sometimes, the Pain and Suffering that we experience on the various “Anniversary Dates” that we all have in our Cancer Journey, are so hurtful and vivid, that we just wish we could take something - anything and have that intense pain just “go away” so we did not have to experience that feeling for another second.

Now, let’s look inside this a little bit deeper…..

I’m truly convinced that Pain and Suffering are human elements that are absolutely necessary for human growth. Without these two elements in our lives, then, as people, we cannot grow and reach our full potential.

It’s not so much that we are going to have Pain and Suffering in our lives– rather, the issue is, how do we MANAGE those feelings when we find them on our doorsteps?

We never got to choose this “fork in the road” of our journeys. We never got to “select the dates” of any of our Pain and Suffering. These were made for us by our various medical schedulers and then became the “days of our lives.”

Like a game of poker, we never got to choose our cards – we were merely left to play with the cards we were dealt.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies, “Cool Hand Luke”, starring Paul Newman from 1967. I was six years old when I saw this movie, but even as a small boy, one of the lines in the movie always stuck in my head.

In the scene, the prisoners of a chain gang were in the bunkhouse playing cards. Paul Newman kept “upping the ante” until all the other guys folded. George Kennedy remarked, “He beat you with nothing!” To which, Paul Newman, replied, “Yeah, sometimes NOTHING is a pretty cool hand.”

As long as the other guys do not know which cards you are holding, you can have NOTHING, but play the hand like it is SOMETHING.

I think that our treatment and surgery plans closely resemble this scenario. Many of us have been told that there was “nothing” that could be done – and yet our players played on with the “nothing they had been told” and once the hand was called, it turned out that their NOTHING, was indeed a pretty cool hand. I think of Winter Marie as our latest, tried and true example of this occurrence.

And still Pain and Suffering was the price to be paid for the admission to that matinee. But as time passes and the wounds heal, the transformation and internal growth from each of us, is what the world will see – how the world will remember us. It seems we can’t have one without the other; they go hand-in-hand.

Pain and Suffering is like when you prune your hedges before each spring. By cutting deeply to the quick, it “triggers” that reaction in the plant cycle, that stimulates new growth in the spring – and when you see it, it is as if there was never any damage done.

And it’s like that with Cancer, the cuts run so deeply within each one of us, but if we can weather that storm, what blossoms from that action, is a beautiful work of art – and a reminder of the cycle of life.

You know the old saying, “What doesn’t kill us – will likely leave a scar.” LOL:)

I think of all the human emotions that Pain and Suffering is the hardest, and yet it offers the greatest yields in our potential as humans. It’s all too easy to laugh, anybody can do that. I love humor and to laugh as well. Anybody that was at CP8, saw the fun side of me – and I can still rise up every now and can still “Get-R-Done.”

But, it is when we expose that vulnerable side of our hearts – where we get in touch with frailties and our fallibilities and then are able to express those feelings to others, is where the Real Growth occurs for us.

It’s only when we peel back those last tough layers of crustiness, that allows our spirits the room it needs to expand and grow – and by doing so we become more empathetic or sympathetic to other’s needs and not just necessarily that of our own needs, which in some cases, is plenty all by themselves.

And by being able to tell someone else about it, is one of the most liberating feelings that there is in this materialistic world. There is a certain freedom that comes from opening our hearts and laying bare our souls to the world. The board is a great example of this and has been such a healing tool for me.

After you have reached this epiphany, don’t you just feel like there has been this great weight of responsibility lifted off your shoulders? Don’t you feel about 20 pounds lighter as a result? You bet you do!

I’ve watched a lot of biographies these past months and the common theme to most of the great artists in this world is…you got it…Pain and Suffering. After all, if I had not firsthand experiences of the things that I have gone through, how could I be able to express that to you in the ways I need to, in order to be able to reach you the way that I want to?

Pain and Suffering – the two cornerstones of our lives that help to hold each of us upright. And the experience and how we “managed” them is one of the keys to our Cancer battles and how we live and fight with that adversary.

I haven’t used this one in awhile, but it’s still worth repeating and is pertinent to this post:

“Cancer does not define us – rather how we Live and Fight with Cancer does define us.” ~Sundance

After many months of examining this topic, I’ve come to these conclusions about Pain and Suffering.

I think as we get more miles behind us on each event, that our brains have a way of “softening and compartmentalizing” our emotions and how we process them. The raw and in your face details tend to fade somewhat.

We are left with a vivid memory of the event, but it is put in a more manageable package in such a way that we can more easily retrieve those memories and in a manner that does not bring that kind of excruciating kind of pain that we walked through initially.

This is a good thing and I agree with Annabelle, that it would be nice to be able to shut down some of these memories when they got to be too much.

Or would it?

Pain and Suffering are the things that we carry with us, that make us who we are.

And if we lose them – we lose ourselves.

I don’t want my pain taken away – I need my pain…it’s my internal compass that keeps me walking on the edge without a safety net.

It’s that fine line that keeps my senses sharp and honed, so that when I reach out to talk to people, there is some sense of validity in the words that I write on the page. And while I will be glad to put this chapter of my Pain and Suffering away for good, I always want it in the archives of my soul, so that I can reach in and grab that inspiration when I need it for myself or someone else.

I’ll be able to live without the daily pain, but I do want those chapters etched into my brain. For if it was not for that, then I could never be Sundance or Craig to you on this forum – I simply would not have the depth to chart these waters.

So, in a small way, I am grateful still for what I have gone through, because by going through this, I have become so much more to myself and to others, than I was before…and that’s the Growth that I talk about from time to time.

I dream of “good times” for us all, those that are still living, and those of us who have passed – in a land far, far away from Cancer.

But until that day comes, I’ll be more than willing to “sit down in the mud with you.”

Thank you, Annabelle for the “inspiration” to this post – this was a good topic and I thought it contained enough merit to talk about it some more.

As always, it so good to see everyone’s shining faces out there. Thank you for taking the time to read this. And I see many new faces, so welcome to all of the new folks to the forum.

This round of fighting has kept me down more than I’ve been up, but anytime I can get up is a good time, and I’m still trying to keep up with as many stories as I can. This one has been on my mind and it looked like a good time to release it.

For those in the fight, don’t stop – put your foot on the gas.

For those that are clear, I just hope I can be like you one day, before my time runs out. Take comfort in your victories, they are so precious.

Well, I’m gonna’ call it a day – before I call it sumthin’ else, LOL:)


Posts: 3692
Joined: Oct 2009


It is so good to read a "real Craig" post! You have obviously put a lot of thought into this topic, + your insight is very interesting. I think you are right; pain + suffering are necessary for certain growth + also makes us appreciate the "good". Sometimes I question when is enough enough? I find it really tough, for example going over my medical history as it brings back so many painful memories + I can feel the pain over again (once is enough!) It is really great to see you posting a "food for thought" + I really hoping you are keeping all these posts for publication.

tootsie1's picture
Posts: 5065
Joined: Feb 2008


I have certainly suffered far less than so many on this board, but I do think that what I have been through has sharpened my instincts for empathy and compassion. I have been able to find a real ministry in showing love to those diagnosed with cancer. Now if I could just find a cure for this mess!


Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Thanks Anne and Gail for your replies.

This one struck out so I'm going to leave it up for a couple of more hours and then pull it down and clear the slot for another poster.

But yes, Anne, I'm keeping a copy of this post and I had planned for this topic to be a chapter in the book. I am planning on getting started in May or June when I come out of treatment.

I had hoped this would get some discussion in the group, but only 2 hits in 24-hours? I've never done a worse job in my life.

I know sometimes I go to areas that are out of the comfort zone with the group - well the group has spoken, so I'm dumping it.

However, thank you so much for your support and your comments.


Posts: 3692
Joined: Oct 2009

I wouldn't pull the plug on this one just yet. It may be a thread that people need a little time to think about; I find that with some threads. I am sorry you are disappointed in the response. I think more will respond as they have time to digest it. I am glad you have plans for your publication.

HUGS from your friend.

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geotina's picture
Posts: 2123
Joined: Oct 2009

Don't think anyone is ignoring your posts. I'm not the one with cancer so although I understand all George is going through, I'm not the one going thru it, I'm only on this journey with him. Yep, we are dealt a bad hand so we have to play it the best we can, arming ourselves with the best we can. It is difficult to watch the pain and suffering when all we can offer is hope and encouragement but it is that hope and encouragement that keeps us going, knowing there are people all across the U.S. that understand and even as a caregiver, it helps tremendously.

Hugs - Tina

herdizziness's picture
Posts: 3642
Joined: Apr 2010

Sorry Craig, I just got back to a computer last night.
I like your post, I think of it in simpler terms, without the sadness and sorrow we see in life, then we would not appreciate the depths of happiness and overpowering joy.
Without the pain and suffering, we could not appreciate the times of no pain or the relief when we wake up and the chemo effects are gone at least for a while, it's those moments, that allow me to continue the chemo and endure the surgeries, I think it's the same for most of us.
And it's true, the memories at least for me, do tend to fade, (although I sincerely believe the reason behind this is, without that "fading mechanism", women would never have another child after the first one, if the memories of child birthing remained clear in their minds)I think it's a built in body mechanism to allow us to endure even more, if that time comes.
I loved your post. Your words resonated with me as I'm sure they have with others.
And most of ALL, by golly, I love seeing your words and eloquence once again being posted for us. Welcome back my friend.
Winter Marie

Posts: 453
Joined: Aug 2008

As hard as it can be and as much as I never want to see pain and suffering happen to anyone I have always felt in my case that it was meant to refine,mold and shape me into the person I am or will become.

I just bought a card for someone and this is what it says:

"The most beautiful stones have been tossed by the wind and washed by the water and polished to brilliance by life's strongest storms"

I want you all to know that you are all brilliantly polished stones in this life!


Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009


I sure did not want to hurt anyone's feelings by what I posted...it just appeared to be that I missed the target on this one. And I thought if it did not resonate with the group, then it had no business being here and I was going to clear the airways for someone else's message and would try again another time.

And then in reading some of the responses that followed, you got me to thinking about it again...and so perhaps, I'll just let it run its course. I never want anyone to think that they have to respond if I open a post - hopefully what I write might be relevant at that time...but I sure don't want people to feel they have to say something if it's not there for them.

This chemo has squashed my brains and deadened my nerves...I haven't been able to put 2 thoughts together when I'm in the throes of that stuff. It's made me feel so stupid and worthless. I've been having much pain and suffering and just going about it quietly, but thinking long and hard about the aspects and that's what went into the post.

When I read it back, it sounded plausible, to me at least, LOL:) But, then again, I'm whacked out on that junk. And of course, I don't expect those thoughts to be that of yours, and that's why I was just interested in hearing what you experience and what you feel as well.

Your Sundance is cold and lonely and looking for inspiration himself to pull me through the last 3.5 months of this current battle.

I'm about to go back to work after this upcoming infusion cycle and it can't come too soon...I need to get back out there into the world. The fighting this time has been all I signed up for and more:)

I want to personally thank each one of you for your ongoing support - and I absolutely meant no disrespect to any of you. I just figured I wrote the wrong piece for the forum. What's a writer gonna' do? :)

To be honest with you, it still felt pretty good to be able to string a couple of coherent sentences in between all the mess - there's hope I haven't lost all my marbles with this chemo mess:)


Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3372
Joined: Jan 2010

You didn't miss the mark with your post. It was just so profound that it made us stop and think for a while.

Pain and suffering come in so many different varities and are so different for each of us.

What matters most about pain and suffering is what we do with it. Everyone here on the board choses to take that which comes with cancer and open themselves to others, giving and taking...information, advice and love.

Your words are always food for thought. This particular topic just caused more thought up front. Don't ever feel that your posts should be removed. You give much to all with each of them.


Marie who loves kitties

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Craig,

It seems like I've had no time to just sit down and write a response to your ever eloquent way of writing on a difficult topic. I'm glad you didn't pull it. Even still, I'm writing this 10 min. before needing to leave w/ my kids for school, so really can't open up w/ it. The same will be my day all day later on, then chemo tomorrow.
But, yes, I've read your post, have been thining about it, and I agree with your thought in that the human spirit is strengthened by pain and suffering. It's never, ever something we enjoy or appreciate going through of course, but it's like sharpening iron with fire (or however that saying is worded- don't think I got it right, but think you know what I'm driving at).
A whole new world has been opened up to me- a world full of people who have been given a life changing diagnosis and are hurting and scared. Never before could I help those people until I had to walk in their same shoes- and continue to walk in.

Hugs to you Craig- it really is good to see you on the board, pondering life.
Hang in there- saying a prayer for you and your wife right now-

Lisa :)

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I mean Craig ;-)
Nice to "read" you again. I've been scarce on this part of the site lately. I think one can only go so far with answering certain questions. Others are better qualified for those. I try to keep an eye out when I can and give input where I have the experience.

Very good post. Pain and suffering are part of the human condition no matter who you are or what your story is. It does have an awful lot to do with who were are or who we become. At times I think that since we are in the situations that we are, that the P&S is more at the forefront than someone who has the P&S that is not disease related (or however you wish to define what cancer is since some think it's not a disease but a character flaw)

You have handled your situation with a lot of grace. Not everyone can as you know. Attitude is everything when you're dealing with this stuff. I did a post a while back asking "Has Cancer Been All Bad For You?" and the replies were split. I was a bit surprised that some people found nothing good about it at all but I am not in their situation. I, like you, have been able to find the good in the bad and use it to try to be a better person.

As always, thank you for your input and posts. I hope to see many more of them for a long time to come...
-phil (or is it Bill?)

Annabelle41415's picture
Posts: 6722
Joined: Feb 2009

An awesome post as usual. Yes we need both the pain and suffering in our lives to make us stronger as you so eloquently posted. You gave some very insightful thoughts and always love reading what you have to say. I'm not a writer, but clearly see that you can put your thoughts "into" words. You are truly blessed with this gift. So totally agree with you when you said "There is a certain freedom that comes from opening our hearts and laying bare our souls to the world." It is a wonderful feeling when we can be honest with our heart and speak from the heart as well. Hope you are feeling better each and every day. I've missed you on the board. Thank you for your kind words of me above :)

Hugs! Kim

pete43lost_at_sea's picture
Posts: 3908
Joined: Nov 2010

i wished my language skills were as polished as yours.

deep and thoughtful posts like yours give a real extra dimension to the board and our lives. i guarantee that heaps of regulars are really just lost for words...
that you effectively through a pebble into the pond and the waves are just bouncing around.

its just such a touchy subject. especially the pill idea, initially i was thinking you were talking about the other pill. that you only take once and solves pain and suffering.

yesterday i had to get rehgydrated in the chemo ward. while waiting in reception this lady in a wheel chair with drips and gown on looked very unhappy.

we smiled and she just said she's been waiting too long and could i help.

so i turned up the volume so she could here the tv, i sat down and we started talking. my kids were around and another lady.

she is on morphine had some truly horrible cancer where her bones are all breaking and she looked at me and asked

"why do they bother " and then a bit later she said "i wish i could die"

she was only my age, i was lost for words and still am, and was surprised by her frankness.

"all i could do was nod and i gently put my hand on her knee"

the nursing assistant soon came and took her to her room, she was in visible discomfort waiting in the wheel chair.

i don't think i would have posted about this myself, but it happened yesterday just like your post on pain and suffering and its on the subject and its worth sharing.

no one has said that to me before personally.

i guess being honest with my experiences and sharing them
will help's me live a little more fully.

the time and effort and sentiments in your post brings into sharp focus one of the most challenging issues around us.


Kathleen808's picture
Posts: 2361
Joined: Jan 2009

You are gifted my friend. Thank you for sharing your words. I love how you think so deeply about things and how well you put down your feelings.
As you know, those of us who watch our loved ones suffer have a different pain and suffering. We don't physically feel the pain you feel but it is excruciating too see our loved ones suffer. I hope I am more compassionate and thoughtful in the midst of all of this. I just hate seeing Dick suffer. He does it so stoically but it still just breaks my heart.


Friendinpenn's picture
Posts: 70
Joined: Oct 2010

I have something I say and live by when people ask how I feel:

"If everyday was a good day, I wouldn't know it" !!

Your friend in Penn

Paula G.'s picture
Paula G.
Posts: 596
Joined: Apr 2009

I am glad to read and see a post from you. Love the put your foot on the gas comment. Paula

soccermom13's picture
Posts: 226
Joined: Feb 2010

Good to have you back. I don't come on the forum very often but look for your posts when I do. Yes, I believe that for some reason unknown to us, pain and suffering, whether it be a disease, a mental illness, stife in family and/or a myrid of other elements in the human condition are very real. Why? I believe that is part of why we are here. We have a mission to perform and we grow from each experience. Why did I get cancer? Why did I tear my achilles while playing soccer? Why did I trash my face in a mountain biking accident? and on and on . . . Why? Why? Why? It does not matter!!! How we learn to handle the experience is what matters. We are allowed to take it with grace, whine, cuss, and cry, or sleep our way thru it but we gain knowledge from the experience no matter the emotion. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes not so easy.

I look forward to the next part of this journey and while I pray that I remain NED, I know that my pain and suffering is not over. What helps me thru it is knowing that there are others that I can depend on to help me thru it. For those who have had more experince with it than I, I will treasure your experiences and pray that you will have peace in your life. Your struggles are real and you bear them with real grace.
Many Hugs!

Posts: 251
Joined: Jan 2009

I have been away for awhile dealing with a different kind of pain and suffering. I agree so with what you said. Pain and suffering helps at least me to realize and appreciate the good times or good things in life. Pain and suffering does have a purpose. My mother died a long and horrible death back in 1987 with lots of pain and suffering. It made me realize that the pain and suffering made it easier to let her go, if that makes since. I think of you often and am keeping you in my prayers. I still have the Christmas cd and the wonderful memories of Frank and I listening and singing along on our many trips to Vanderbilt. Hang tough and keep writing. Your wisdom, courage, and your ability to express how so many of us feel is a blessing beyond compare.
Anna (amcp Frank's widow)

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

This past 7-months has been a really long stretch of road for me...most of the time I've found it to be pretty isolating and if I'm being truthful, pretty lonely too.

I've had to resort to "talking to the wallpaper" :)

That's not the worse part - the wall paper is starting to talk back, LOL:)

Some of my posts draw some hits and other posts draw fewer, but when this one looked like it was a dead post after the first day, I did not take into consideration, that perhaps the waters were so deep, that people needed to time to think about it and then respond.

I'll definitely keep this thought in mind when I open another post like that one again.

You guys probably don't realize how much you mean to me and how much I look forward to reading your thoughts and replies. Like "bread and water" to a starving man. I wanted to talk with you and thought I had just blown it - and that perhaps these are not the type of posts anyone wants to read about anymore.

I appreciate you responding back with your thoughts on this subject - it's always good to hear how all of us deal with these type of things in our lives.

I get inspiration from you too, never forget that.

Be well - CT scan today for me (chest only) checking from the rads treatment. Another infusion this Wednesday - #6 for those keeping score:)

Thank you, everyone!


Posts: 3692
Joined: Oct 2009

I am sorry you have had such a rough go of it; you don't deserve that! Don't ever think you blown it; this group loves your posts! I get great inspiration from you, + miss you when you are absent. I hope the CT scan went well, + I am 1 day after you with chemo.

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

When I saw the topic of your post, my dear southern cowboy, I could not bring myself to open it....my soul is raw right now....

BUT never, never, never second guess something you share here. Just because it didn't get that much response, doesn't mean that it didn't get opened alot...that, after 5 years of posting here, is the biggest lesson I've learned...

I love you, and what matters to you, matters to me. We all love you!

BIG dutch hugs, Kathi

LivinginNH's picture
Posts: 1458
Joined: Apr 2010

I just now had the chance to completely read your post (I started at least three times but always got interrupted (darn boss) and only now was able to finish it. And it's a great post! One that certainly should be part of a chapter in your book. I was going to ask you about how the book was coming along, but I just read that you've postponed it for a few months. But that's ok, I'm just glad that you're still going to do it - I want a copy! :-) And it was great to see you back on the board and writing such thoughtful and emotional posts. Keep up the good work! Lot of Hugs to you! Cynthia

lesvanb's picture
Posts: 911
Joined: May 2008

You're right on the button for me with this post. My Zen teacher has always said we would never make any changes if it weren't for pain...and the suffering, well that's the piece we get to work with to see what we're made of, and often it's a whole lot more and wonderful than we ever would've thought (or we're brought up to think we believe). I would never recommend this cancer path to anyone as a way of opening the heart (and letting it break open sometimes), but I would never ever give up what I have learned and become because of what I've gone through on this path. Facing one's, and others', mortality every day is never high on one's bucket list.

Below is just a piece of what I really liked about your post and is such a reminder and an encouragement. Encouragement is so key to staying in the game and playing well.

"And by being able to tell someone else about it, is one of the most liberating feelings that there is in this materialistic world. There is a certain freedom that comes from opening our hearts and laying bare our souls to the world. The board is a great example of this and has been such a healing tool for me.

After you have reached this epiphany, don’t you just feel like there has been this great weight of responsibility lifted off your shoulders? Don’t you feel about 20 pounds lighter as a result? You bet you do!"

As regards posting and responses and timing etc, I just read this post now.. and with that here goes a bump...

Ride on my friend,

chicoturner's picture
Posts: 285
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi Craig, I'm happy you didn't pull your post! I was out of town visiting my new grandson and just back last night. What you said is all so true. It does seem that pain, whatever it is caused by, allows us to recognize joy. Years ago when my son, a now 34 year old man, was a boy, he had a very bad sinus and bronc. infection. When the Doc gave him the anitbiotics he said to my son " The best thing about having an infection that makes you feel so bad, is that in a day of two of med. you will "think" you are well. Keep taking the meds." Maybe the pain is for us hard headed people that don't take suggestions well, or maybe it is for the strong ones who are able to show others what can be tolerated.

Thanks for your words and don't feel bad that a lot of people didn't reply. Maybe they just soaked up the words into there hearts because of the true of it. Thanks again. Jean

C Dixon
Posts: 202
Joined: Jan 2010

I needed this tonight.

Thank you for sharing yourself,


snommintj's picture
Posts: 602
Joined: Mar 2009

I read all your posts! I'm just usually too exhausted after reading them to respond. Lots of times I'm on my iphone, have you tried to read one of your post on the iphone. It takes forever but I'm still listening to you.

pete43lost_at_sea's picture
Posts: 3908
Joined: Nov 2010

how fantastic for us all.
thanks again,

Lori-S's picture
Posts: 1286
Joined: Sep 2010

I have through out times come to see that pain and suffering are like the rubberband or slingshot that is pulled all the way back and when I get through the times the rubberband/slingshot is let loose and I am catapulted to a new level of understanding of myself and life in general. I've found that my greatest spiritual growth as well as personal growth has come immediately after a painful times in my life.

I guess that might mean that pain and suffering are the slingshot in the world of my spiritual growth

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