Hearing the words that you are breast-cancer-free is a huge relief. You have finished your final chemotherapy or radiation treatment, or your reconstructive surgery is complete. Congratulations. It is definitely a time to rejoice and celebrate. But as you will quickly discover, no one is completely finished with breast cancer.
Lifestyle choices, mental status, outlook on life, and just about everything else have changed once you’ve had breast cancer. If you are having difficulty returning to the life you once had, you are not alone.
After my double mastectomy, I thought my life would go back to the way it always did. I was wrong. Recovery lasts forever, or so it seems, because you have to regain muscle strength, manage your pain, and deal with other physical and emotional effects. Do not be hard on yourself for having feelings or being frustrated. You are completely normal. Being a survivor is a huge blessing, but it comes with strings attached.
I remember like it was yesterday how I felt when the doctor told me on a cold January morning that I had breast cancer. Every so often the feeling and fear return like a punch in the stomach. The anxiety of cancer recurring or spreading to other parts of your body can run deep when you’re a survivor. We know and understand how it feels, and what is at stake. We know that cancer can visit anyone, often with no warning.
Dealing with your new body is a job in itself. Let’s face it, your body has been through a lot during diagnosis and treatment. No matter what course of treatment you followed, you changed physically. Being tired can be a lasting symptom. Adjusting to your scars, and your new body image, will be an ongoing process. I miss the old chest I had, and the comfort of my own, unreconstructed body. But I’ve come to terms with my body being different, although I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t. And I know it will be a lifelong journey.
Going to non-cancer doctor appointments will be different from now on. Cancer will always come up in the conversation. When you see a new doctor, you will fill out a form that lists your cancer experience, and the doctor will want to talk about it. Although you’re grateful you are a survivor, it isn’t pleasant to remember and need to rehash what happened. It will get easier, though, because time does heal everything.
On the positive side, being a breast cancer survivor will give you a new outlook on life. You have been through a lot, and there may have been moments when you doubted you’d survive. That makes you begin to examine your life and priorities.
What are your goals? What do you like and not like about your relationships? How can you make your life more fulfilling? All of these questions may be going through your mind. Think it through, of course, but relish the fact that you’re going to be the best survivor you can be.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.