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Life After Breast Cancer

smclane
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2002

Hello,

I'm not sure I'm doing this correctly, but I hope my message reaches you. I am one year away from my last treatment (mastectomy, chemo, radiation). Physically, I feel so much better that it's hard for me to believe that I couldn't pick-up and carry an empty trash can from the curb to the garage last year. Mentally, I'm having a hard time. My view of my life/world has been turned completely upside-down or over. I can't seem to embrace my recovery and my good chances of survival. The only people I talk with are family and friends who have not been diagnosed with cancer, and I feel as though I am dragging them down with my fears and thoughts of death.

Am I "stuck" as a cancer patient and need to talk with a therapist, or have you all experienced the same thing? If so, does one get over it or simply have to learn to live with it?

I'm fifty years old, divorced, living in a wonderful little old house, with two dogs, a cat, and soon a retired racehorse (in the barn, not the house), so I really don't have any outside pressure to be/do/behave a certain way, for which I feel very lucky.

Would appreciate some insight, and don't worry about telling me I'm a wuss.

Thanks,

Susan

jmears
Posts: 270
Joined: Jul 2001

Susan
I'm "stuck" too. I've been taking Zoloft and talking to a therapist. It does help but I don't believe I'll ever be the same person I was before the cancer. If you've been reading the posts, now I'm "concerned" about other possible problems or cancers. I have decided that to have cancer is similar to having a cronic illness like diabeties. One must be ever aware and vigilant. One thing I find myself doing that I hate, is bringing it up in conversation a lot. I refer to things like ... "oh that was while I was in treatment". So much for me ... your house and animals sound wonderful ... and it sounds like you have your sense of humor. Hang in there ... don't hesitate to talk to a therapist ... it can actually be enjoyable. Good luck. Jamie

ktinkey
Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2001

Susan,

First of all welcome to the site. You are not alone in your feelings. I bet all of us have experienced that sense of fear once we are through treatment. If you have time sometime, read some of the past posts and you will see the topic comes up quite frequently. When we are in treatment we are seeing some type of medical personnell on a regular basis. That gives us a sense of security that someone will recognize a symptom and tell us what to go. When we end treatment, we have that sense of loss. Who will be there if something comes up? I am a two time survivor of breast cancer. As time goes on you usually quit worrying so much and focus on living. But hey, if you have trouble doing that, then by all means get whatever help you need. You are in charge of your health and you know best what you are feeling and what you need. You are not a WUSS! Cancer takes time to heal. Be good to yourself and don't beat yourself up when you have bad days. We are always here for you. Ask any questions you want. My personal philosophy is I am a cancer survivor, but I will not let cancer determine who I am. You have to develop your own style to deal with it, and one is not right and one wrong ... we are all different. Good luck and ...

God Bless,
Kathy

cathyann
Posts: 26
Joined: Jun 2001

Hello Susan Tomorrow is my one yr anniversary and yes I too felt like you. My DR suggested anti depressant effexor(which also helped with the hot flashes) dont worry nearlyas much now and wonder why I waiting so long to get some help. (I was NOT depressed?!) perhaps i felt as if i was admitting i needed help but am sure glad i did. talk to your DR and dont be afraid to take an anti depressant. GOOD LUCK and feel free to email me if you like cslaski1@cs.com

inkblot
Posts: 705
Joined: Jul 2001

Hi Susan:

Welcome! It's so good that you found this site and chose to share with us.

A wuss, you're not! Consider all that you've been through and all you've accomplished! Don't forget to give yourself credit here.

I believe that once we complete treatment, the real work begins. That being the emotional healing. We're left with what I call the "aftermath" and it's a part of our healing that is often overlooked and seldom understood by our family and friends. It's often not that well addressed by our medical doctor's.

For me, Yoga and meditation have been extremely helpful. Explore different avenues and find things which work best for you. In finding methods which calm our fears and bring us inner peace, we can begin to build and live our new and improved lives. Lives of joy, positive feelings and accomplishments.

Your living arrangements with your little house and your animals, relfects that you're somewhat of a free spirit already and that's
wonderful! BUILD on that good foundation.

Consult with a therapist, other's who share your experience, as was already suggested,
read some good books on the subject, (I'd suggest Dr. Bernie Seigel's "How To Live Between Office Visits")...anything which brings insight and offers some direction for you, personally. Mostly, don't be afraid to
choose to grow from your bc experience. I believe it's a mistake to try to go back and capture who we were before. Putting so much energy into trying to get back the "normal" lives we lived before bc. Our NEW normals can be so much improved...more wonderful and more fulfilling. It's an opportunity, really.

You WILL find your path...your unique way of
growing and embracing your recovery...if you search and seek, then you will surely find!

Please keep us posted as your journey unfolds and share your thoughts, feelings and needs with us. You'll always find someone here who has been wherever you are.

Good luck and best wishes in finding your own, unique path to peace.

Love, light and laughter,
Inkblot

24242
Posts: 1417
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Susan,
We are glad you found this site much like all of us have done and most for the very same reason as you. I was almost 4.5 years out when I found this wonderful place. It has been a place to dump what I feel without having to burnden my family, most not truly understanding where it is I have been.
I am so glad that you feel so much better that in itself is such a bonus. I know accepting the changes in our lives as well can be very difficult. I don't know about you but nothing has been the same since cancer. Depression seems to be a common hurdle that so many women share. But I often wonder if just masking the pains with the drugs. Going to someone and talking can't be a bad thing, I am on my way next week, I say it can't hurt, only can help me feel the way I want to be feeling. I am game for anything at this point.
Hang in there Susan, you seem to be doing all the right things. Maybe just talking here can help as well. I am so grateful for all the women here and the support I feel. Hope you find what you are looking for,
be good to yourself.
Tara24242

nancys
Posts: 336
Joined: Aug 2000

Hello Susan, I am also about a year out of treatment. lumptectomy,chemo, and radiation. I find that I can get depressed and anxious if I dwell on the, "what if's". My advice is to, instead, dwell on the "what is" We recently lost a beloved sister on this site. Rosa Moore (Tiger) talked to each of us for over a year and we fought her fight for life with her, during that time. Losing Rosa has shook all of us and I am sure that everyone here will think about our own mortality, but Susan, try to shake it off. Whatever will be will be and don't waste precious life worrying about a furture you can not control. Stay on top of your check ups and listen to your body and live each day to do something meaningful. A race horse!!!!How wonderful...I have loved horses and have bet on a few of them from time to time, in Nebraska at Aksarban. Stay with us here on the CSN. Everyone one of us is feeling just exactaly like you feel and it is good to talk about our feelings with one another. I find that helps more than anything else. Love to you, Nancys

maud
Posts: 183
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Susan,
You are not a wuss believe me, I felt the same way I am about 14 months out of treatment and sometimes I still do. We are so busy going to Drs. and treatments and for tests that when it stops and you have time to think about all you have been through and sometimes to much time to think you get scared, at least I did. I felt safe as long as they were checking me every week it was like a security blanket and then all of a sudden it was gone.I also felt safe while my port was in and was scared to have it out. I had it removed in Nov. and I found this site just before that and these ladies helped me get through it.If you feel the need to talk to someone then by all means you should. Just remember you are not alone we are all here for you and fell free to email me anytime. God Bless Debbie

cat1switzerland
Posts: 119
Joined: May 2001

Hi Susan,

I have read all the previous answers to your question, and recognized my friends' wisdom and kindness underneath the words. I wondered if there was anything I could possibly add, being a 3 year survivor, then I remembered a story I shared months ago. It is a story that helped me tremendously deal with my own fears. For what it is worth, here goes :

A French sociologist, Jacques Salome, tells this story in his book : "Contes a guerir, contes a grandir". In English that would be "Tales to heal, tales to grow". He believes tales speak to our unconscious mind, and as such can help us overcome problems. This particular tale is the tale of the Fear Magician. In a far away country, everybody was scared. Fears poisoned their lives. So they would travel a long way to see the Fear Magician. They would go alone, and when they returned they would keep quiet, wouldn't talk about what had happened. One day, this little boy broke the secret. He said : "The magician told me to look for the desire hidden beneath my fear, and to accept that desire." A man decided to test the magician with the scariest fear of all. "I am afraid of dying", he told the magician. The magician asked him : "What is the desire hidden under this fear ?" The man paused for a long time and finally answered : " I would like to live every moment of my life in the most intense and happy manner, without wasting anything." "So, this is your most formidable desire", whispered the magician. "Listen to me : take good care of this desire, it is a unique and precious desire. To live every moment in the most lively, intense, joyous manner is a very beautiful desire. If you respect this desire, if you give it a real room inside of you, you will not be afraid of dying anymore."

Now my own story : I have learned to identify my life desires. I have also recognized that the way I lived before cancer was self destructive. I ate junk food (since I had a great metabolism I was not getting very fat so I had no motivation to eat better foods). I didn't exercise either. I was a workaholic, hence a guilty mother. I wanted to make my boss and my family proud of me and used to take on too many responsibilities. So I didn't have time for fun, or perhaps I didn't feel it right to spend time just for myself. Cancer was a shock because I realized I had not truly lived yet. Then a few months after the end of treatment I felt depressed, and realized that I had gone back to my old ways : I was overworked and scared of recurrence. I made a decision and talked to my boss. I now work 4 days a week and no longer manage a team. It is truly wonderful, and the pay cut isn't as bad as I thought. For one thing, my daughter spends much less time at the babysitter! I am enjoying life probably for the first time in my life. I have a lot in common with Inkblot : I am doing some meditation and sophrology to help me relax. I make an effort to eat fruits and vegetables and much less junk food. I exercise twice a week. I started drawing lessons with my daughter and get my creativity juices flowing again. In a nutshell, I feel younger, healthier and much happier than I did before cancer. I am so thankful for the wake-up call cancer brought!

Believe me, depression is a way for your mind and body to scream : "I am hurting ! Do something !" Listen to your inner voice, listen to your dreams. And then do it ! Life is beautiful, and once you are busy enjoying every minute of it, you won't have time for fears.

I wish you the very best on that wonderful path.

With a big hug from Switzerland,
Cathy

inkblot
Posts: 705
Joined: Jul 2001

Cathy:
Such a beautiful story from a beautiful lady!
Your new and improved life (your happiness)brings me tears of joy. I understand the fire you had to walk through to get to where you are now. Your spirit is amazing.

Thanks for sharing so much of your personal growth and may we continue our fight, daily, toward finding our peace, our joy and the wonderful lives which we all so deserve.
You're an inspiration.

Love, light and laughter,
Inkblot

shirlann
Posts: 235
Joined: Oct 2001

Hi, Susan, I have the answer and I mean I really do! My husband and I both went on anti-depressants for about a year while I went through treatment and I can't tell you how much it helped us both. They are not addictive and you slowly get off them after you begin to get your feet on the ground. Believe it or not, after a time, you do begin to think of other things. I am 66 and 3 years NED, my husband and I have two dogs also. I worry myself sick over every pain, nothing is anything but a "met", but, I am getting much better. You are NOT a wuss!! You are a member of a huge sisterhood, all of us grapple with the "scaries in the nite" and the constant worry. Things will get better, trust me, and see your doc about the anti's, God bless you! Shirlann

sueholm's picture
sueholm
Posts: 221
Joined: Oct 2000

Dear Susan. this site is very slow on my computer, so I havent read any of the other responses before writing this, but I hope I might be able to help a bit.
First, you don't say if you work, and the first thing that strikes me, if you are dwelling too much on your cancer, is that you have far too much time to do it! I run a business, so I really don't have time to think about it. If you don't work, perhaps you might want to give it a try, or, if you don't fancy that, how about helping out with someone worse off than yourself, eg at a care home, or a hospital, so that you are busier and take the focus off yourself.
Second thought is why are you so frightened of death? You're going to die, no doubt about it, AND there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT! Other than taking the best care of yourself as possible you cannot control when you will die, but that is no different from the last 50 years of your life. For all you know you could have various other medical conditions which could 'bloom' and kill you at any time, and you could get hit by the proverbial 'bus' tomorrow. I think, for me, completely understanding that I have no control over what happens with this cancer, allows me to let go of the outcome. If I have no control, then there is not much point in worrying. Watch a plan fly overhead. Do you worry about it crashing? No, cos you have no control over whether it does or not. The other thing about death is that it is only 'in the eye of the beholder'. When I die, I won't even know it, because I will be dead! How can we fear something we will never even be aware of?
Fearful or not, you are still left with a choice...let that fear control your life, or feal the fear and get on with life anyway!
I could have a recurrance, so I have just expanded my business. If I am going to only have a few more years of life, I'm damn well gonna enjoy them!! For me, getting cancer has been great, cos I used to worry too much about the future. Now, I'm living every day as if it is my last, cos it may be!!
I should have been living like this all my life.
If there is anything here that you like, keep it...just chuck out the rest.

Love Susan in BC Canada

sbruney's picture
sbruney
Posts: 21
Joined: Mar 2002

Hey Susan, you are not alone. I finished chemo and radiation just before Christmas, so the holidays got me through -- then in January I got real depressed. I talked to my doctor about the uncertainty that everything worked or not. He said 90 percent of his patients were worried, and the other 10 percent "are too dumb to know they have anything to worry about." While going through treatment I met other women who seemed upbeat all the time, so now I wonder if they really were or just not showing their fears. I think it is normal to be worried, but we hide it because our family/friends haven't been there and don't understand. My only suggestion is to turn it all over to God. He is in control. I admit I slip a lot, especially in the wee hours of the morning, but it is getting better day by day. Good luck and God bless. Sandy

pamtriggs's picture
pamtriggs
Posts: 408
Joined: Sep 2000

Dear Susan
I had breast cancer in 1984 & after mastectomy had no further treatment or symptoms. After about 18 months the fear began to recede & after about 3 years I no longer gave it a thought. I was - I thought - one of the lucky ones & got on with my life. I was 34 at the time of my initial DX. When the BC returned in 1999 I did not even consider the symptoms I had as being BC . That's how far the fear had receded. So yes ther is a life after BC. Get on & live it & try to forget the fears. Why die from fear before you have to. If it comes back you just get on with it & fight again like I am. I'll win again too. At 55 I'm still too young to die. Love & hugs
Pam.

anng
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2002

Hi Susan,
You are definitely not being a wuss. I am two years out from my diagnosis and am definitely having a hard time dealing with the fear of recurrence. I am sure the Tamoxifen and Zoladex-induced hormone fluctuations are not helping matters. I think the key is to stay busy. But I do think that it gets better with time. So you need to just keep plugging along... Best of luck.
BTW, I was 28 years old when I was diagnosed.

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