KITCHENER, Ont. -
Maureen Fleming figured if she survived cancer, life would return to normal. She didn't expect to struggle with pain for years after surgery and chemotherapy.
Fleming had both breasts removed about a decade ago, and still today she suffers from painful lingering side-effects of her drastic surgeries.
The Kitchener woman's sides are tender to touch and her arms weak from damage to the nerves, tendons and muscles. Painful swelling caused by the removal of lymph nodes in her armpits triggers chest pain and trouble breathing. For years she had phantom breast pain. And there's the emotional toll of the deadly disease.
"The worry can bring on a lot of pain," Fleming said. "No, it's not directly related to the cancer, but it's because of the cancer."
Treatment, she discovered, is not a quick fix for cancer.
"It's not like a broken leg," she said. "This is ongoing."
Fleming is one of many Canadians coping with chronic pain, whether it's from cancer, chronic illness or a serious injury.
Chronic pain is relentless and devastating, and people suffering with it face discrimination and lack of understanding, said Lynn Cooper, president of the Canadian Pain Coalition.
"People who do not experience chronic pain cannot possibly understand what that's like to have pain coming at them all the time," she said. "It affects every aspect of your life."
Between 17 and 31 per cent of Canadians report dealing with chronic pain, according to the coalition.
Pain that's not managed well can cause a person to become isolated as work, social activities and even family relationships are affected.