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Denial of diagnosis

Posts: 26
Joined: Oct 2012

Hi all:

I have posted before asking for information about what to expect in recovery - bilateral mastectomy with SNB and reconstruction - being a single and independent person and I got a lot of most helpful replies. And the good news is that one of my sisters-in-law will be flying out to spend a week and a half with me to help me get over the initial hump and to help set me up for the weeks ahead.

However, I am still baffled about my personal response to all this. I have major surgery in a week and a half. Every time I tell a dear friend or co-worker about my situation, I get teared up. However, for some reason, I have not yet been able to cry over my situation.

Although I have been diagnosed with cancer (albeit stage 0 but very aggressive) and I am undergoing major surgery at the end of the month, I have not had any feelings about this. I am numb and cannot really comprehend that I am going to have a life changing surgery in a week and a half.

Is this normal? Shouldn't I be scared out of my wits? The only symptom I have experienced is waking up at 3 - 4 am and not being able to get back to sleep.

Please let me know how others are dealing with this.

laughs_a_lot's picture
Posts: 1369
Joined: Mar 2011

I think it might have something to do with your being single and having to depend on yourself. I will explain my logic in this. I am married but have a disabled husband. I also did not express a whole lot of emotion with the breast cancer diagnosis until just before I went for chemo. I was terribly afraid of getting chemo brain and not being able to function well. I also think it had to do with realizing that the esence of me could not be easily altered by removing a portion of my breast. I have never been a big stickler for appearances. I figure the greatest part of my being lies in my brain. Hence the fear of getting chemo brain. Don't take my brain. I gotta protect all of it I have. (Tee hee hee!).

I think the lack of emotions also was because I was so accustomed to having to handle matters because of my husband's disability. I also have other relatives who have had to lean on me as well. This gives me less room for emotional reactions than the average female. When I do cry about any given thing I often do it away from those who depend on me most. I will cry with some individual who knows my home situation well.

The fact that you have had tears well up in your eyes is a healthy sign. I often will cry slowly in the car as I have a long commute. The tears just kind of leak out of my eye. My "leaky crying" happens more often when I may not understand just exactly what it is that seems wrong. I quite often figure it out within several days of "leaky crying".

Now maybe this helps you, and if it does not I hope someone else will have an explanation that can help you.

mamolady's picture
Posts: 796
Joined: May 2011

There is no right or wrong or normal or whatever when it comes to dealing with the cancer diagnosis. I was shocked/numb/confused for a while. The tears may not come for a bit.
Talking it out here or with a friend or even a therapist will help you get through the next part of your journey. Sometimes when you are in a fight or flight situation, you don't have time to let it all out and cry till you are done with the fight.
Even though you are independent and like to take care of yourself, this is a time to let others help. It will be good for you and will let them feel like they are doing something.
Keep us posted on the surgery.
All the best,

Posts: 42
Joined: Oct 2012

its normal, im 2 months out from diagnosis and surgery, frankly i haven't wrapped my head around having a lump, not really, everything goes kinda fast and your brain is assaulted from every angle, trust me the tears, scaredness and grief will come. its like any other major change in your life, it comes when it come, just don't deny yourself going through it when it does. Im so sorry that you have to go through this, but allow yourself time. i will pray for you and your family and its great that you will have someone for a while, the best medicine really. if i've learned anything so far its that you will do better if you have anyone to help you, don't deny someone the pleasure of helping, they recieve as much as you will, go with God's blessing, keep us up to date.

Posts: 26
Joined: Oct 2012

Thank you ladies for sharing and giving me some comfort about my situation.

salls41's picture
Posts: 340
Joined: Apr 2012

my normal may not be your normal.. I think we all have pretty much the same numb shock feeling in the beginning but begin our battles differently..some cry for days and then stand up and fight and some fight from the get go and then cry with relief after the battle. I cried on and off through out.. some days I still cry..so don't worry about being normal.. we are all normal.
Good luck.

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2791
Joined: Jun 2010

They say the words "you have cancer", but you feel fine. I had no symptoms and they told me I had endometrial cancer and then just a few days later they told me I had breast cancer. How could that be? Shouldn't something show? Why wasn't I falling apart? Oh, I had the feeling of being kicked in the gut and I worried and didn't understand and was obsessed, but I did not fall apart. My husband did. I had my teary moments like you're describing and I lived with a feeling of dread, but none of the movie sobbing that I thought I should have.

I had hopeful and positive results from pathology reports - and then they said I needed chemo. Strangely, I was so worried that my oncotype score would come back in that gray area that I was relieved when it came back in the high risk range. How not normal is that?

Finally one day in the middle of my chemo, my daughter sent me a link to a memorial video made for her brother in law who had just died. I watched that and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It would have brought me to tears anyway, but this was really big time sobs and I felt it was therapeutic because all of those sobs had been suppressed for whatever reason. So I watched it again and sobbed some more.

This summer it dawned on me that had I not gone in for my well woman exam in 2010 (I was about 2 years overdue) I would not be here today. So, two years later I sobbed again.

As Sandy says, we're all individuals and how you respond is unique to you. Don't beat yourself up that you think you're not following protocol! And whatever you do, do not allow anyone to tell you how they think you should feel.

Good luck on your upcoming surgery. We're here to help you through it.


abrub's picture
Posts: 1843
Joined: Mar 2010

I was diagnosed 5 1/2 years ago with a very rare metastatic appendiceal cancer - an unexpected surprise from a "routine hysterectomy." Despite all I went through (multiple extensive surgeries with many complications and rare side effects, including 29 days in hospital at MSK, horrendously painful rounds of intra-peritoneal chemo, and horrible suffering during my systemic chemo with FolFox (a colorectal chemo combination) I still find it hard to believe I've had cancer. I went in feeling healthy, and all of the surgeries and treatments left me feeling horrible. (My story is on my member page.)

One of the reasons I am so active on the boards is that I know I have experience to give back, but also to try to help ME understand that yes, I am a cancer survivor.

It is a very difficult concept to grasp: "I have cancer." No one thinks it will really happen to them, but it does. I'm fortunate that I'm well recovered from all of my treatments, tho with appendix cancer there is a very high likelihood it will recur 10 - 15 years down the road. And of course, I've just been through a breast cancer scare (which brought me here.) And once again, uncommon problems with all that I've been through in learning that I don't have breast cancer.

I've worked with a therapist since diagnosis who is helping me understand the realities of what I've been through, while moving forward in my life. His support through the worst of it was invaluable - his helping me see that I was normal.

So, yes, everything you are saying is normal. We all handle this mental/physical intrusion into our lives differently.

Wishing you well,

camul's picture
Posts: 2541
Joined: Dec 2010

It wasn't until I had the mastectomy and was doing chemo that I felt like I had cancer. I was working full-time and had two teenagers at home and was taking care of my mom who had a stroke, so I didn't have time to think about it much.

This time around, I didn't feel bad enough to feel like I was stage iv at the beginning and my doctor was worried because he felt that I was in denial. Truthfully, I had radiation, the pain was better and I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and did not agree to chemo for 8 weeks after finishing the rads. I wasn't in denial, I just didn't want to make and ill informed decision.

I hope the best for you with your surgery and am so glad that you found this site, these are the most caring group of men and women anywhere and I remember when I first joined the relief in being with others who really knew what I was feeling.

Hugs and Prayers,

lintx's picture
Posts: 689
Joined: Sep 2012

your sis-in-law will be there in the beginning. My plastic surgeon warned me prior to the same surgery you'll be having, I'd have weepy moments to follow. I did! I don't think it was about losing my breasts but maybe the inability to return to my life in a nano second. I didn't want to burden anyone. We're all different, and your experience will be, too. I'll keep you in my prayers. Hugs, Linda

Posts: 653
Joined: Oct 2012

Can't say I have cried about my situation (IIIA). A year ago this month I had my initial appointment, when I suspected that I might have a problem. I guess it might be that I felt optimistic about what I was told at the outset, when I was told in January that I had bc -- that if I went at this aggressively, there was a good chance that the end result would be positive.

I have sometimes thought that just the way I am makes people around me think I do not take my situation seriously. I do, but I choose not to fret about it. I do not spend a lot of time thinking about my situation, as I don't think that is healthy.

Yes, I have had a few teary moments, when I would be reminded of the reality of my situation -- like the morning of the day I started chemo. From January to the end of March, it seemed that I just could not catch a break on anything; but I just rolled with the punches. (Initially, I was just to have surgery and then take a hormonal pill, as no one had an idea then that I would end up Stage IIIA. That changed the mode of attack.)

We all react individually to our situations.

Posts: 250
Joined: Nov 2011

I only seemed to cry at first when I told others for the first time .....but then I got more comfortable and confident the more I talked about it... .. It's been one year for me since I finised rads ....so glad you have someone coming to help ..... you will process your emotions in your own way as we each have done ... praying for a great recovery! Sue D

Posts: 6564
Joined: Oct 2010

Everyone handles everything so differently-so what works for you is good. I am sure in due time you will be able to just let go and cry away. IT may even feel a bit better afterwards. The waiting is the hard part for sure...Just wanting it over..

thinking of you..


Posts: 110
Joined: Oct 2012

was very "matter of fact". My husband freaked a lot more than I did. My initial reaction was very "business like", getting info, searching the web. About 5 hours later I cried for about 5 minutes and told my husband I was going to bed. He asked if I wanted to just sit on the couch and cuddle and I said, "No, I need some reflective introspective time I think." From then on I switched into intense business mode. When I told people, some teared up, but not me. All through my treatment people were telling me how amazed they were at my reaction. My response was, "Well, how else should I be...and falling apart...what would it gain me? Nothing...and do harm to me as well. It is what it is and now I have to deal with it, so I will deal with it. Period." I was fine after that. I just treated everything very clinically. If this piece of you is broken, either fix it or remove it. If it has to be removed, let's do it and get it over with.

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