A Different View Of Pain

After cancer, chemo, and a mastectomy — my perspective has changed

Shefali O'Hara
4 min readJan 20, 2024
Photo by Rebekah Vos on Unsplash

Today while roasting cauliflower in my oven, I accidentally touched the hot oven with the inside of my arm. I yelled “ouch” and the person who was with me expressed sympathy. It hurt, but I laughed it off.

As someone who is battling cancer, I have a new perspective on pain.

When I had a mastectomy I was in so much pain that they were giving me enormous amounts of oxycontin — 60 mg twice a day. Because I knew that addiction was a real possibility with this medication, I started tapering down the dosage earlier than my doctors recommended. However, I am glad I did that, because I experienced withdrawal symptoms, which told me I was forming an addiction.

I used meditation, prayer, and music to cope with the pain while I was tapering off the Oxy. I am glad I didn’t keep taking it as long as they wanted me to because addiction to pain meds has destroyed lives.

Other treatments, such as chemo, have been painful in different ways.

Thanks to the chemo drugs used, I now have neuropathy in my hands and feet, which causes me balance issues and makes it harder for me to function. I’ve also been having an increased sensitivity with my teeth and digestive issues.



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.