The first noble truth of the Buddha Dharma isn't so, well, shall we say set in stone in the Western world. Usually, the first truth is stated as 'life is suffering', and much of the time this is the first teaching many in the West are exposed to when asking about Buddhism. It rings a cord for sure, especially those that aren't in a great and wonderful place in their lives. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that many Westerns are drawn to Buddhism for the first time because it offers a grain of truth and a chance of hope in lives that are on a rather painful cycle. This is how I came to study Buddhism myself. I can't say I see many Westerns, happy and cheerful, to so eagerly identify with this first truth when put in this way.
However, once we begin to look closer we can see that 'suffering' does not encompass all in what the Buddha was pointing too. We soon see many variations of the first truth, just some of which are:
Life is unsatisfactory.
Life is turmoil.
Life is despair.
Life can suck.
Life is death and loss.
Life is confusing.
Life is ....
To the teachings about the first noble truth Buddha Gautama said this:
"Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha."
I think it is important in Progressive or Western Buddhism that we do keep some of these Sanskrit words, because at first, to many new to Buddhism, they truly have little to no meaning. Dukkha is so much more (and less) than suffering, and new practitioners can begin to fill the empty meaning of this word with what they struggle with in there everyday lives. When we discuss the teachings we begin to talk about labeling and naming the objects in the world and how these labels ultimately can cause some pain because all things change. Our minds attach to these labels, then repel in horror once this thing is now that thing. Our minds continually work in adjusting and remaking the world we live in.
How would you talk about or explain what Dukkha is?
So, those new to Buddhism, yes, life is suffering....but "come and see for yourself."