It Gets Better After the Shock of an Initial Cancer Diagnosis

Started by anonymous, August 26, 2015
4 replies for this topic
anonymous

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Posted on
August 26, 2015
Today I am in my fifties. I got breast cancer at age 46, just before my 47th birthday. I remember feeling bad for my husband — the day after my first chemotherapy, he was trying to make a small family birthday “celebration” for me. Needless to say, my mind was elsewhere, and I had no idea what would be “safe” to eat that evening or what would happen the first time chemo drugs were in my body.

My life was in the process of changing dramatically and I just wanted to survive. I desperately wanted my old life back. I was in tears, in shock and in grief as I began to mourn something that still felt too big to comprehend. My life had changed and I knew I would never truly get my old life back.

I felt swamped. My boat had tipped over and I was drifting sideways alone in a deep and foreign ocean. For a while, it was even to big to write about or journal about. One of my friends called my diagnosis “a kick in the head,” but I thought “run over by a steamroller” felt more accurate to me at the time. I felt flattened, every single inch of me.

Before cancer, I was professional trainer/speaker, and published writer on clutter clearing and home organizing where I had been fortunate to appear on television, radio, and other media venues across the country. Somehow household clutter just didn’t feel very important for a while, quite a while, after learning I had breast cancer. I was a planner, a bit OCD and, frankly, kind of a control freak. I liked to have my clutter, my stuff and my life under control. I liked to keep things simple and organized. In a few seconds of conversation with my doctor, all of that was swept away.

Eventually, hour by hour and day by day, I got through treatments, connected more to my faith and to nature and gratefully received love and support from my family and friends. After several months, “active treatment” ended and I was left to create a “new normal.” I was not sure I liked that terminology at all.

Is there really anything “normal” about cancer survivorship? I don’t think so. I had neuropathy symptoms, PTSD symptoms, worries around health issues and follow-up doctor appointments and, the big one, a fear of recurrence.

I tried to meld what I had learned through my cancer experiences with my simple living clutter clearing skills. Both experiences have taught me to actively think about and address my life priorities. Clutter clearing isn’t to have a home like Martha Stewart, it is to free up time for priorities. Cancer survivorship also can be used to turn your spotlight onto your priorities — whatever they may be: faith, family, friends, hobbies or travel. There are no guarantees for anyone that life will stay the same or be “normal,” so my advice is to figure out your priorities, write them down and start going after them today.

In addition, be gentle with yourself and give yourself the gift of time. Cancer will occupy your mind less and less with time. That said, still be vigilant about your physical health. Use prayer, distraction, connecting with nature, keeping your hands busy, whatever you learn personally works well for you and you will get through your cancer and cancer survivorship. Try to practice gratitude for small things. Try to live more in each and every moment. You can do this!

I now survive and thrive (most days) in Minnesota with my husband, daughters, and dogs. My books, "Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools" and "Clutter Clearing Choices" are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold, and I now speak to help fellow survivors and their loved ones by offering cancer coping tools as well as clutter clearing tips, depending on the audience. Life is different, not “normal,” and I am grateful for every day I have.
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BarbaraTako

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
August 26, 2015
Today I am in my fifties. I got breast cancer at age 46, just before my 47th birthday. I remember feeling bad for my husband — the day after my first chemotherapy, he was trying to make a small family birthday “celebration” for me. Needless to say, my mind was elsewhere, and I had no idea what would be “safe” to eat that evening or what would happen the first time chemo drugs were in my body.

My life was in the process of changing dramatically and I just wanted to survive. I desperately wanted my old life back. I was in tears, in shock and in grief as I began to mourn something that still felt too big to comprehend. My life had changed and I knew I would never truly get my old life back.

I felt swamped. My boat had tipped over and I was drifting sideways alone in a deep and foreign ocean. For a while, it was even to big to write about or journal about. One of my friends called my diagnosis “a kick in the head,” but I thought “run over by a steamroller” felt more accurate to me at the time. I felt flattened, every single inch of me.

Before cancer, I was professional trainer/speaker, and published writer on clutter clearing and home organizing where I had been fortunate to appear on television, radio, and other media venues across the country. Somehow household clutter just didn’t feel very important for a while, quite a while, after learning I had breast cancer. I was a planner, a bit OCD and, frankly, kind of a control freak. I liked to have my clutter, my stuff and my life under control. I liked to keep things simple and organized. In a few seconds of conversation with my doctor, all of that was swept away.

Eventually, hour by hour and day by day, I got through treatments, connected more to my faith and to nature and gratefully received love and support from my family and friends. After several months, “active treatment” ended and I was left to create a “new normal.” I was not sure I liked that terminology at all.

Is there really anything “normal” about cancer survivorship? I don’t think so. I had neuropathy symptoms, PTSD symptoms, worries around health issues and follow-up doctor appointments and, the big one, a fear of recurrence.

I tried to meld what I had learned through my cancer experiences with my simple living clutter clearing skills. Both experiences have taught me to actively think about and address my life priorities. Clutter clearing isn’t to have a home like Martha Stewart, it is to free up time for priorities. Cancer survivorship also can be used to turn your spotlight onto your priorities — whatever they may be: faith, family, friends, hobbies or travel. There are no guarantees for anyone that life will stay the same or be “normal,” so my advice is to figure out your priorities, write them down and start going after them today.

In addition, be gentle with yourself and give yourself the gift of time. Cancer will occupy your mind less and less with time. That said, still be vigilant about your physical health. Use prayer, distraction, connecting with nature, keeping your hands busy, whatever you learn personally works well for you and you will get through your cancer and cancer survivorship. Try to practice gratitude for small things. Try to live more in each and every moment. You can do this!

I now survive and thrive (most days) in Minnesota with my husband, daughters, and dogs. My books, "Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools" and "Clutter Clearing Choices" are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold, and I now speak to help fellow survivors and their loved ones by offering cancer coping tools as well as clutter clearing tips, depending on the audience. Life is different, not “normal,” and I am grateful for every day I have.
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golden1s

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
August 28, 2015
Perfect timing to get this.......I just had a biopsy today for a lump on my leg, preliminary results, melanoma is back. I was diagnosed with melanoma in Jan 2013, had surgery on the bottom of my foot and a second surgery in March to remove my groin lymphnodes. I have ct scans twice yrly and dermatologists appts.which have all been clear of melanoma. This lump appeared on my inner thigh just this month so I am in the midst of that "fear of reoccurance" actually happening! I dont know what my drs plan of action will be yet but I am trying hard to process this and I can't yet.
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BarbTako

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
August 30, 2015
Hi golden1, thank you for writing. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Please keep me posted. Maybe it will be easier to process when there is a medical plan in place. It is hard to deal with bad news combined with unknowns. If you have a safe place, go curl up in it and be gentle with yourself. I know--easier said than done. Take care.
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Karla

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
September 02, 2015
Thank you for sharing these timely thoughts. I am a 2 x melanoma survivor who just finished 11 months of treatment for breast cancer - I coped really well during active treatment - it seems to be the fear of recurrence and new normal phase that are getting to me. I sometimes feel like I am just waiting for the next one....I want my life back and to stop being so focused on every ache, pain, or bump that I feel. When people comment "well, now you are cancer free, right?" I catch myself responding "for now". That does not sound like me but I can't seem to stop doing it.
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co

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
October 09, 2015
I have a rare breast cancer ACCB, so rare there are less than 300 cases recorded the last time I checked. 13 yrs ago this coming december the oncologist told me..DEAD or DYING in 3 months if I did not start chemo immediately--this was right after he told me, I HAVE NEVER heard of your type of cancer, so we will do all the chemo available on you. I had just handed him the report from Mayo saying..CHEMO IS OF ZERO benefit. (forced to see him by surgeon). I walked out of his office after we had a yelling match, never to return, and never took his chemo. Still here, and still suffering the major side effects and permanent damage from radiation. There is no survival, until you die of something else not related to cancer. I have not been able to set any fun priorites, live the dream, do what I always wanted to, or spend time left traveling, having adventures etc that everyone else seems to do. My only priorities are keeping my job, keeping a roof over my head, living thru my grueling commute to work. The financial drain is still ongoing and will be for the rest of my life. Good for you if you are having fun, have some for me, have alot for me. I dread october, I hate the color pink, always have. My surgery and radiation cost over 200,000.00-- not to mention 3 plastic surgerys to correct the damage from radiation. I gave at the office.
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