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22 Photos That Show What It Looks Like to Be a Strong Woman With Chronic Pain

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When you have a chronic pain condition, getting through each day can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Whether you’re working, going to school, taking care of family, training for a race, fighting through a bad flare-up in the hospital or getting the rest you deserve at home, you’re doing it with chronic pain, and we think that’s pretty badass.

However, those on the outside may not always recognize just how much pain you’re in, or how much physical and emotional strength it can take to accomplish tasks, big or small. In her essay “I Am a Strong Woman With Chronic Pain,” contributor Julia Apodaca-Lane explains, “Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I won’t pay for it later.”

Even if you see a chronic pain warrior out and about, smiling, doing everything a healthy person might do, it’s important to remember that they still have chronic pain. A person with chronic pain is still a fierce warrior whether they’re stuck in bed, running a marathon or tackling their everyday chores and responsibilities.

We wanted to demonstrate that there’s no one “look” to chronic pain, so we asked our Mighty community to share a photo that shows what it looks like to be a strong woman with chronic pain. The women in the following photos may all experience pain differently and have unique abilities, but all of them show incredible strength and perseverance in facing this daily battle.

To all the chronic pain warriors out there: We see you. You’ve got this.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “This photo was taken three days into my chronic migraine and shoulder pain attending my brother’s partner’s birthday. Holding my bag at all times in case I need access to my painkillers. Sometimes being strong just means showing up and doing your best. As my shirt says, ‘girls can do anything.’” – Amy L.

woman with pink shoulder-length hair wearing a shirt that says 'girls can do anything' standing outside in a field holding a black bag

2. “As the same for many of you I am in pain every day but I still had a lovely wedding day and married my wonderful husband. I managed most of our day with the help of pain medications and support from my beautiful bridesmaids.” – Claireabella S.

black and white photo of husband and wife kissing at their wedding

3. “Accomplishing the number one goal on my bucket list: swimming with dolphins. All while living with fibromyalgia, scoliosis, celiac disease and awaiting a lupus diagnosis. I spent the next several days paying for it, but that’ll be a moment I never forget.” – Brittany J.

woman in a yellow life jacket kissing a dolphin

4. “Socializing, smiling in spite of the invisible pain, because laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” – Pooja P.

woman sitting in a restaurant with a drink in front of her

5. “Myself, getting a Lactated Ringer’s infusion, beasting my day! I stand when I can, and when I can’t, I don’t give up!” – Catherine M.

woman standing next to an IV pole

6. “Antiphospholipid syndrome caused my amputation as well as a myriad of other conditions including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), Sjogren’s, osteoarthritis and Raynaud’s; I also have a broken back, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, migraines, brain lesions from all the strokes I have had and Paget Schroeder. I may have chronic pain, but chronic pain does not have me! Maybe I do need medical compression to keep the edema at bay after having so much of my vasculature damaged, and maybe I exist in a wheelchair while I hope for the possibility of prosthetics. Maybe I spend most days in nine or 10/10 pain, but I won’t let it stop me. Not anymore!” – Gwendolyn C.

woman with one of her legs amputated taking a selfie in a mirror while doing ballet

7. “This is me in the car on the way home after a 31-day hospital stay. I had not been outside my entire stay and I legitimately started to cry upon feeling the sun. It wasn’t the pain that got to me (though sometimes it does), it wasn’t the overwhelming nature of my condition and having a feeding tube placed, but I broke down when I finally felt the sun in realizing that I was going to get to live as opposed to just surviving.” – Angela S.

woman taking a selfie in the car with the caption "so excited to be out!! happy tears"

8. “In between participants while working in the lab. They have no idea that I was up all night in agony and barely made it in today. So grateful that I get to do this awesome job one more day.” – Anna D.

woman wearing a black blazer

9. “The day after an endoscopy and colonoscopy and being off all my meds for five days. I’m in eight out of 10 on the pain scale but have a doctor appointment I absolutely can’t miss. My body is screaming, but I’m still vertical, at least for now. Smiling through the pain… it’s what I do.” – Julie H.C.

woman sitting outside hugging her knee and smiling

10. “I participated in Relay for Life in honor of my uncle yesterday. I wanted to walk the last few minutes without my cane. With two of the most amazing people on each side, we finished strong.” – Sarah B.

three women walking on an indoor track for relay for life

11. “I’m from Serbia. So this was on my holiday in Greece. I was rushed to [the] emergency room in pain and convulsions and I was able to speak in English and explain my situation. That showed me how strong I am!” – Magdalena N.

woman lying in a hospital bed covered with a blanket

12. “The good, the bad and the ugly. From being stuck in bed most of the time to hospitalizations to attending both Women’s Marches to crying in pain and frustration at the Medicaid office to attending a concert despite pain and vomiting (and doing all of that alone).” – Danielle D.

collage of photos of a woman with chronic pain

13. “I have fibromyalgia, migraines and back ache and the day this photo was taken (April 15, 2018), I had a severe flare-up but still managed to complete a 10K with my family to raise money for the school district. Of course, I am unable to move without limping and the overall body pain and back pain is intense but I am taking it one day at a time, doing what I need to to do.” – Lakshmi R.

woman with her husband and two sons standing outside in front of a lake wearing matching t-shirts and medals

14. “I know everyone wants to see faces and stuff, but I’m proud of my battle scars. I’m 11 days out from major foot surgery and this photo somehow makes me proud.” – Angela D.

woman with stitches on the inner side of her right foot plus bruising

15. “Despite my chronic pain I am a mother and a wife.” – Jessie L.S.

woman with her husband and two daughters in front of mountains

16. “Yesterday while at school, when my pain hit an all-time high out of nowhere.” – Kristin N.

woman laying her head down on her desk at school and crying

17. “Disney with a few accommodations. Still getting used to the idea that I have to use a scooter to enjoy my day.” – Bailey S.

woman smiling next to winnie the pooh

18. “Me and my BFF Tab at a dance party and a weekend away. Enduring my meltdowns/anxiety and chronic pain. I’m not even the one with cane and hip brace – that would be my vulnerable and brave Tab with her own chronic pain and illnesses. Together we show up for each other.” – Sarah D.

two women walking together and smiling at an indoor event

19. “I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and POTS, and I’m legally blind. I’m always in agony. My boyfriend took this when we spent the day in London the other day. I ended up in hospital for pain control that evening, but the memories I made that day were absolutely worth it.” – Leah R.

woman sitting in her wheelchair and smiling

20. “I had to get an nasoduodenal (ND) tube placed because of neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to grow on any nerve in the body at any time. It caused a large abdominal tumor to displace my pancreas and duodenum, encase my major arteries and cause my kidneys to be malrotated. It causes constant debilitating pain and eating makes it even worse, so I get a majority of my nutrition and all of my medications through my tube. Because of the tumor I can’t get a surgical tube placed, so I’ll have the nose hose for life. And that’s OK with me, it keeps me alive.” – Brooklynn B.

woman wearing a hospital gown and standing next to an IV pole with a tube in her nose

21. “Me, standing tall, the weekend I graduated from nursing school. I struggled with chronic pain all through college but managed to graduate on time and I’ve been an RN for almost two years now.” – Amelia H.

woman wearing her graduation gown and posing in a field with a bridge in the background

22. “Behind these eyes and smile lies the silent struggle. Many don’t know the pain and anguish I suffer day in and day out. I pray for all those that battle like me, so that you may find joy in each day. No matter if it is big or small!” – Kristen K.C.

woman wearing makeup and a blue shirt smiling in a selfie

Originally published: April 23, 2018
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