The Emotional Trauma of Breast Cancer: ‘Can Anybody Hear Me?’

A breast cancer survivor explains that many people deal with long-term emotional trauma as a result of their cancer experience and argues that more should be done to address it.

“It has been nearly three weeks since my diagnosis and I am still bouncing in and out of denial. I feel fine, I look fine. I don’t feel like I have cancer. Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe I don’t really have cancer.

Since hearing those words, “you have cancer,” I feel like my world has stopped and that everyone around me has kept going at a very fast pace. I feel like I am screaming in a crowd of people, but no one can hear me.

I feel left behind.”

These are words taken from my book, “Beautiful Lady,” which chronicles my personal journey through breast cancer where I learned that cancer consists of two equally important paths: one being the obvious medical path and the other being the emotional path. Healing the emotional wounds from a cancer diagnosis is as important as healing the physical wounds so that we can come through this terrible storm “wholly healed,” with body, mind and spirit in sync.

When I was diagnosed, I was surprised and disappointed at how quickly my confidence and self-esteem were ripped to shreds. I had gone from being a strong, confident, successful business executive to someone who was suddenly scared of nearly everything. My trust had been shattered and it took me a long time to rebuild my courage and self-confidence.

A cancer diagnosis creates a storm of strong emotions, and it forces us to evaluate our lives and our mortality. Within a matter of seconds life is changed forever, and through my own experience, I learned that women often are not provided with the necessary tools to emotionally heal from this traumatic event. Some cancer treatment centers provide both medical and emotional support, but many do not.Often women are left to their own devices to heal and overcome the emotional trauma.

In addition to what our bodies are going through medically, our minds are experiencing extreme trauma that does not magically end when the medical treatments do. It just begins, which is why many women describe feelings of panic, devastation and fear after returning home from cancer surgeries and/or treatments.

I have talked to many cancer warriors who have confirmed that people around them say things like, “It’s over now, you have to move on with your life,” or “You don’t have cancer anymore, why are you still upset?”

Please don’t ever say these things to a cancer warrior. It is not helpful.

Trauma is real and so are its resulting physical effects. Cancer is a difficult journey, and we should not have to live with lingering trauma or be afraid to ask for help healing our emotions.

The stress and hormones activated in the brain by the traumatic event get stuck in survival mode and sometimes do not restore back to normal levels. When your brain is in constant stress mode, it trickles down and is normalized throughout the physical body. If the brain does not reset, survivors may develop PTSD.

According to statistics, nearly 80% of women develop PTSD symptoms after a cancer diagnosis. That is a staggering number of women, when you consider the statistics from the World Health Organization that cite 2.3 million women were diagnosed globally with breast cancer in 2020. Do the math, and that means in just one year 1.8 million women are struggling with some level of PTSD. That is in just one year.

The medical industry must do better.

They must recognize that cancer warriors need help medically and emotionally. We cannot just heal the physical body; we must also heal our mind and spirit.

This is a very important step.

As a result of my own struggles, I have made it my mission to help women heal their emotional wounds so they can realign their thoughts, boost courage and rediscover our happiness.

We must give ourselves time to work through the healing stages at our own unique pace, with no internal or external pressure to “go faster.” We must work to identify the hard feelings of fear, anger, sadness and depression so that we can release them to become “wholly healed.”

Speaking from personal experience, if you take these steps, you will soon realize that you can look to the future with hope and excitement, with renewed self-confidence and courage, knowing that you are now a strong warrior, both inside and out. Cancer may have taken our old life and ravaged our bodies, but it cannot (and should not) take away our future.

Carpe diem. You can do this!

You can contact Geri via email at geri@bebigandbrave.com. For more information about her book, “Beautiful Lady,” and other online resources, visit her website https://bebigandbrave.com. Join Geri on Instagram and/or Facebook @gerimaroney.author.

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