As my gynecologist’s nurse struggled to explain why my mammogram was suspicious without once using the word 'cancer,' it slowly dawned on me that she was carefully measuring her every word to fend off panic.
People expect fear to ignite when cancer enters the picture. Of course I was afraid, but it wasn't fear that motivated me to do what I did next.
I hung up the phone resolved to handle this alone. Rather than immediately calling my husband, my plan was to return to the breast center for additional testing in secret. I absolutely needed his support, but I couldn't bear the thought of causing my spouse of 21 years the worry that phone call caused me. Like it or not, I ...
I completely relate to your survivor's guilt Spirit2. Despite the very real, intensive procedures we've been through, we're always aware that there are others who have had it worse. I've found it helps to acknowledge the guilt as just another aspect of cancer and try to move through it as best you can. I'm glad you're doing well and wish you good health and happiness.
Syl: I felt like I was saved when I found one-on-one support. It was such a relief to drop the "strong mask" in therapy and concentrate on my needs only. Your feelings are entirely normal and you deserve a place that's just for you. Good luck and God Bless you too. Debbie
JAB: I was thrown by that too. When I was diagnosed, my breast surgeon explained that the DCIS was so dispersed throughout my breast that a lumpectomy would leave my plastic surgeon very little to work with for reconstruction. At my website, WhereWeGoNow.com, I've talked a lot about how hard it was to wrap my head around being told I was "lucky" to have DCIS and yet needing a mastectomy.
All I can say is how glad I am that my article found you and gave you some relief, By RA. You are definitely not crazy. You are a fighter and you have every right to cry whenever and wherever you want. I wish you all the best and hope you find a job as soon as you are able.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Andrea. Sometimes we don't even know what we need until we have the blessing of finding it. Your therapist's advice rings true in so many situations and I'm so glad you're getting the support you need. Thank you again, and I wish you all the best.
I feel for you VickiTX. Perhaps your husband isn't able to deal with your emotions because your suffering is too painful for him. My husband was also immensely supportive, but also had a hard time seeing me in emotional pain. Of course, there is no excuse for calling you weak, which you certainly are not! I got a lot of help with this issue from my therapist and learned how to work through this with my husband. Perhaps you could speak to someone at your cancer center for guidance. Take care and make sure to get the emotional support you need and deserve.
Thanks so much Gary. Do you know about Cancer Care? It's an organization that provides access to professional oncology social workers who offer telephone, online and face-to-face counseling free of charge. You can find them at www.cancercare.org. Everyone who wants therapy to deal with cancer should be able to find it. Thanks so much for your comment.
"Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don't go there alone." – Augusten Burroughs
The room was barely big enough for two chairs, a desk and a box of tissues.
Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., I found myself there. Usually, I showed up with a specific issue I needed to talk about. Sometimes, I was just there to be there. Every time, except one, I left feeling better than when I walked in the door.
I’ve been very open about spending an entire year in therapy after my mastectomy. Without a doubt, it was the single best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I don’t know how I could have navigated cancer without it and cannot overstate this:
So glad to see you here at Cure, Dr. Shani and thanks so much for your wonderful advice. I hope more doctors proactively "treat" convalescence and give their patients real guidance as to what to expect when healing. Keep up the great work and thank you for giving us the scoop on post-cancer fatigue.
I'm glad you learned to honor your body and the journey, Babs and Bob. It's not easy to be patient with your body, but, as you learned the hard way, we only make it harder on ourselves when we rush healing. Good luck with your upcoming hernia operation and, remember, take it slowly!
Hi Robin. I'm glad you found this discussion too! When I was five weeks after my mastectomy I continued to have discomfort too. The best advice I can give you about finding the happy balance is what I've learned from yoga. Take time to listen to your body and be where you are today. This isn't a competition, even with yourself. Nothing should ever hurt. Be kind to yourself and take your time; you'll get there. Also, as to finding things "tight and hard" consider seeing a massage therapist. I had the same problem in my abdomen after a TRAM flap reconstruction due to scar tissue and rehabilitative massage worked wonders for me. Good luck and take good care of yourself
Thank you for raising an important point, Barbara Tako. I think a lot of us women have a hard time standing down and letting someone else take care of things. I still find it hard to relax and often push myself well beyond the point that I should. Maybe if we stopped to recognize the signs of fatigue before it overwhelmed us, we'd actually heal quicker. I'm willing to give it a try. How about you?
Thank you Deanne for letting me know I'm not the only one to try to hide these things from my husband. It's so hard to be patient when we want so desperately to be as active as we once were. Good luck with your auto stem cell transplant in June. I hope you can find the patience to listen to your body and give it the time it needs to heal. Be kind to you; you're very important (especially to your loved ones!)
We were a small support group of women sitting around a table when she came into the room.
She didn’t even make it to a chair before she shared her distress with her doctor, who had "finally" cleared her for physical activity after her mastectomy.
As an exercise instructor, she had been crazed by weeks of inactivity and weight gain. As soon as she was able to exercise, she threw herself back into it with a vengeance. Now she was in a lot of pain, angry with her doctor and afraid she would never be able to return to exercising.
We’d never met before, but it seemed obvious she had the drive to return to her passion.
I'm so glad my article resonated with you, THJ. You and your family have been through a lot, and you have every reason to cry it out. If you're interested, look into CancerCare.org. They offer counseling services and support groups to patients and family members over the phone, online and in person. They can also help you find other resources. Keep reaching out, THJ, and I wish you and your family all the best.
The economy has affected many of us to great detriment, colon_stage4. I'm glad you find some relief with mindfulness and sites such as this. Keep communicating, we want to support and hear from you. Take good care.
I cry when I'm emotional too, Terri. It's funny how we think "there's no need" to cry and yet there we are crying. Maybe no need is necessary, or there is a need we don't understand. Either way, if we're crying it must be what we need to do. Feel the love and let the tears flow; it's completely okay.
John: It is a great thought, but it seems you have the same problem I did - not wanting to cause family members more pain by letting them see tears. Because there's no way I was ever going to feel any better about it, I had to find another way to vent. Thank goodness for my therapist, who saw me at my very worst every week. She never judged and I never felt responsible to take care of her, so our relationship was all about taking care of me. I hope you can find someone who can do that for you. Believe me, it saved me.
I'm sorry you're not feeling supported at home, raindrop. It's no wonder you don't feel comfortable crying about your cancer. I understand the pressure to be over cancer and even wrote an earlier article for CURE about it. (How to Cope with the Pressure to be Over Cancer) Keep reaching out to find support; you're not alone.
I know it's uncomfortable to be vulnerable in front of other people, Bma. Please try to keep focusing on the compassionate and encouraging responses you get and deserve. I'm sorry you're crying alone and hope can let other people support you in your time of sadness.
"[W]e need never be ashamed of our tears ..." - Charles Dickens
One of the things I've come to accept about myself is that I cry easily.
What hasn’t come easily is crying in front of other people.
During the diagnostic and treatment phases of cancer, I usually clamped down my tears. As a mother, I felt I had to be strong for my children. As a wife, I saw my husband's pain and, feeling guilty for causing it, didn't want to cause more. As a daughter, sister and friend, I didn't want to worry anyone and tried to keep things positive.
Although I felt no such obligations to my doctors, I hid tears from them too. When my breast surgeon ...
Please know we hear your silent cry for help, NC2. I know that the uncertainty of waiting for answers is excruciating and feel your pain. Please keep reachng out and looking for support. I credit my therapist with helping me deal with uncertainty and hope you find someone you can talk with too. No one should have to do cancer alone. I wish you all the best.
Thank you so much, Emma, for sharing. I agree that life is always uncertain, cancer just brings that truth home. I don't find it easy to live day by day either, but we keep trying to do the best we can. May the force be with you too!
In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Pliny the Elder
The first casualty of cancer is certainty.
Of course, I’m only speaking for myself. And, as someone who had gone through five years of miscarriages and infertility before cancer, I should have already known that life doesn’t always go the way you expect.
Still, I walked into the breast center 15 years later without a doubt I knew the drill: remove everything above the waist, put on a robe, let the technician flatten a breast between panes of glass, hold my breath, repeat, get dressed, leave and, a few days later, open the letter confirming all was well.
Tonia: I love how both you and meme are connected! Giving back really is a slow process, but so worthwhile and healing. Your decision to help establish better communication at your cancer center will benefit so many others. Good for you for getting out there to bring much needed services to other survivors!
meme: What a beautiful story of giving back! I love that you make hearts from the heart to help other breast cancer patients. Giving back really does benefit both the recipient and the giver. Keep up the great work!
I had my mastectomy on a Wednesday. I think it was Friday morning, when the anesthesia finally wore off, that I had my breakdown.
Not being in my right mind, I could be wrong.
What I know for sure is that cancer had been eating away at my emotions for the past six and a half months, and I was completely devastated. It didn’t take much for all those tubes and bandages, and a missing breast, to push me over the edge.
I was no longer able to cope. Worse, I was terrified I would be discharged into the void and left to face my mental, emotional and physical recuperation completely depleted and alone.
Bonnie: I so respect your devotion to self-care in the face of your struggle with anger. Keep walking the dog, meditating and doing yoga because it's good for you and makes you feel a bit better. There's nothing easy about finding peace in the face of cancer, but you're living proof that it pays to keep trying.
I'm so sorry for your losses, Terri. Losing your mom and your beloved dogs must be excruciating for you. Of course you're angry. I hope you and your husband can work through your disagreements and come together to support each other. I wish you all the best as you work through your cancer anger.
Thank you, rhondalea, for sharing your compelling story. I'm so glad you persevered to find a doctor who understood and treated you as a whole person. We have to keep telling our stories until the medical professionals hear us and take our QOL issues seriously. Thank you again.
It's my hope that talking about our anger helps, swski. My loved ones grew weary too, which is why it was so helpful to talk to a therapist. I hope you find someone who can support you too; it's hard enough without having to worry about protecting others from your anger and sadness. All the best.
You said it, meme! Good for you for getting the help you needed to work through your anger and get to acceptance. Sometimes it takes a breakdown (or throwing something) to realize that we need to take the next step to recovery. Your story sounds a lot like mine and I thank you for sharing it.
Thank you, Yog! I think it's important to remember that all emotions have value and we shouldn't feel obligated to feel some and deny others to make other people comfortable. We're all entitled to our "moments" and the less pressure we feel to conform to expectations, the easier it will be to get through them.
I'm so sorry that your hospital isn't providing you with the support you need. Have you tried calling organizations like the Cancer Hope Network or Cancer Care? You can find them on the web. Both organizations offer free telephone support with a real person who understands your situation. You deserve support and I hope you keep seeking it out.