Getting emotional and practical support

Pain can affect many aspects of your life. It doesn’t just affect your body; it also affects thoughts and feelings. Having pain can be overwhelming. You may not feel like this all the time, but getting the right emotional and practical support can make it easier to cope.

Feeling better emotionally may make your physical pain feel better. Talking about your feelings to someone close can help. Or you could talk to your GP or our cancer support specialists. They can help you to find local support groups or counseling organisations.

Pain can sometimes cause people to question their faith or spirituality, even if they’re not religious. This can be very emotional and may make your pain worse. Speaking to a religious or spiritual leader could help.

If you’re finding it difficult to control your pain, tell your healthcare team. They can recommend medical and non-medical treatments. If you have other symptoms, treating these can also make managing pain easier.

A number of organisations and schemes also offer practical support to people with cancer.

Emotional and practical help with cancer pain

This section talks about your feelings and things that can help you cope with cancer and pain.

Your feelings and cancer pain

Having cancer can affect every part of your life. Being in pain not only affects your body. It also interferes with your thoughts and feelings. People can have lots of emotions when they are in pain. You may feel:

  • angry
  • hopeless 
  • frustrated 
  • anxious 
  • isolated 
  • fearful 
  • depressed 
  • like you’ve lost control.

Being in pain may stop you from doing the things you enjoy. You may not be able to go out as much. Or you may not be able to do normal daily tasks any more, or go to work. Feelings can change from day to day. Sometimes, they can all become overwhelming. But you are not alone in feeling like this.

There are many people and organisations that can help you. Some non-medical treatments may also help. Ask your doctor or specialist palliative care nurse which ones may help.

If you feel okay emotionally, your physical pain may feel better. It can help to talk about your feelings. You could talk to your partner, a close friend or relative. If you don’t talk about your feelings, the people close to you may not realise you are in pain. They may not understand why you are angry or upset.

If you don’t want to talk to anyone you know about your feelings, talk to your GP or specialist palliative care nurse. They can help by putting you in contact with a counsellor. Or you can speak to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00. They can give you contact details of local support groups or counselling organisations.

Sometimes, your GP may suggest you take an anti-depressant or a sedative drug such as diazepam. This can help improve your mood or reduce anxiety. Don’t feel bad about this. It is common to be prescribed one of these. Many people with cancer or cancer pain find these medicines help them cope.

Spiritual help

Illness can force people to take life more seriously, to question the meaning of life and to stop taking things for granted. Some people who have religious beliefs may find themselves questioning their faith. Even people who are not religious may experience spiritual turmoil. People often ask questions such as, ‘Is there life after death?’ and ‘Why should the people I love suffer?’ Questions like these, which relate to basic beliefs about life, can cause great emotional and spiritual upset. This can worsen the experience of physical pain.

Some people find comfort in religion at this time. It may help to talk to a local minister, hospital chaplain or other religious or spiritual leader. If you don’t feel that this is right for you, it may help to talk to family and friends, a counsellor or someone from a cancer support organisation. Our cancer support specialists can give you details of organisations that provide counselling.

Control of other cancer symptoms

People with cancer may have many symptoms. Some are caused by the cancer, and some are caused by cancer treatments. Trying to cope with other symptoms may make it more difficult to cope with pain. Often, other symptoms can be relieved by medical or non-medical treatments, or by a combination of both. If your other symptoms are well controlled, this can help you deal more effectively with your pain.

Talk to your healthcare team if you have other symptoms. They will be able to advise you on how to deal with them.

Practical support

If your pain means that you can't move around easily, you may need specialist equipment or people to help you in your daily life.

The British Red Cross has an office in every county. They have volunteers who can help you in many ways. This may be with shopping, posting letters or changing library books. They may be able to take you to an appointment at the hospital. The British Red Cross can also lend equipment like wheelchairs and commodes (portable toilets).

The Disabled Living Foundation runs an information service. It also has specialist advisers and occupational therapists. They can give advice on aids and specialist equipment, including special cutlery, walking aids and wheelchairs. Scope also gives information and advice to disabled people.

If you have mobility (movement) problems because of your cancer or pain, you may find the Blue Badge scheme useful. This provides parking concessions (allowances) for people with mobility problems. It means that you, or someone with you, can park close to where you want to go. For example, you can park next to the entrance of a shop. This will make it easier for you to go out. To apply for a badge, contact your local council. A healthcare professional, welfare rights adviser or social worker can help you apply.

Some areas have good neighbour schemes. The schemes organise help for people in the local area. This could be help with shopping, befriending or offering transport. The schemes are usually run by the social services or local community organisations. Some are only available to people living alone. Look for ‘council for voluntary service’ or ‘good neighbour schemes‘ in the phone book or online.