Aim To consider how the older person constructs the experience of cancer pain and how this is informed by expectations and experiences.
Method Nine older people with cancer were asked to keep diaries and subsequently interviewed about their experiences of living with cancer and pain.
Findings Five themes were identified – better to be old than to be dying with cancer, maintaining control and independence, loss of identity in adapting and grieving for a former self, dislike of analgesia and denial of pain. The themes give a perspective on the embodied meaning of ‘pain’ in daily life.
Conclusion Clinical pain assessment alone, without listening to people’s pain stories, does not always identify pain or problems with daily living. Appreciation of the individuality of the lived experience of cancer can advance our understanding of pain and end of life care.