Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Recovering from breast cancer is a difficult time and can take the rest of your life, but it's important to fight for good health.
The road to recovery after breast cancer is full of twists and turns. The journey can be long and daunting. The destination toward renewed health, while exciting and unsure, is where we fix our focus. We are wired to survive.
There are several phases of breast cancer. The first phase is the discovery phase. It is a very short phase but also a very frightening one. During this stage, a lump or mass is discovered. Sometimes it’s palpable and sometimes it’s not. You may be the one to find it or it may be found as initial tests are performed to determine its nature.
The second phase of breast cancer is the testing and treatment phase. This stage involves more extensive testing and a recommended treatment program. Treatment can last for months or years. This phase isn’t as scary as the discovery phase, but it is a busy and challenging time. You’ll be focusing on constant tests, doctor visits and regimented treatments. Your schedule will fill quickly and at times, you’ll feel overwhelmed. You’ll be under the constant watch and care of many medical staff and doctors. You’ll find the days passing quickly and sometimes you’ll feel like you barely have time to breathe. During this whirlwind phase, your doctors are aggressively fighting cancer on your behalf.
The third phase of breast cancer is vastly different from the first two phases. Discovery and initial treatment are over. You may have moved into a maintenance stage of care where you only see doctors for periodic checkups. For the most part, you’re on your own. There’s no safety net of medical staff constantly hovering around you. This is a doubt filled and fearful time. Of course, your doctors are still available should you need them, but they aren’t constant in your life now. This stage is just as important as your active treatment phase and will require you to listen carefully to your body.
During the recovery period, the third phase of breast cancer, your focus will shift from the world of treatment to regaining control of your life. You’ll start to pay close attention to your body learning to understand the signals it gives you. Your body will begin to work its way back to health. Our bodies are made for this! Our bodies are miraculous and are always in the process of healing from injury. For example, before breast cancer, have you ever suffered a cut on your body? Over a period of days, your body worked hard to repair the damage. Even if the cut was minor and all you did was clean the wound with soap and water, your body spoke to the skin and tissue cells telling them where the injury was located and how to heal it. Slowly and surely, the wound began to close. A scab formed and after the scab loosened and fell off, new skin began to grow. Before you knew it, the wound had healed. You may have been left with a small scar but the wound was gone! Your body had done its job. It was a tiny miracle. In the same way as the tiny cut healed, our bodies are programmed to find ways to repair and heal larger wounds.
After active treatment has ended, it’s time to focus on optimizing your health. This might include changing your diet, adding exercise, or taking natural supplements. This is a time where you want to provide the best possible environment for restorative healing to take place. Not only will you want to provide good physical changes for your body, you’ll also want to provide good mental changes. Eliminating stress is a good way to help your body stay in a positive healing state. Your body is a powerful thing. It will signal you when you’re dealing with things that negatively affect your health. You may find yourself dealing with frequent headaches, stomachaches, or you may feel anxious. These are signals that say your body is suffering undue pressure. As you listen to your body, you’ll find it necessary to combat these symptoms. The remedy may be as simple as removing yourself from a situation or taking a hot bath. As you learn to understand and eliminate stress in your life, you’ll find your health being optimized.
The journey to health after breast cancer is never really over. The road to recovery will take the rest of your life. Every step along the way will provide its own unique experience. Yes, breast cancer was a huge detour along your life path. Your road was filled with many twists, turns, and unexpected challenges but your final destination hasn’t been reached yet. The best thing you can do, as you travel the road to recovery, is to set your sights on enjoying each day as it comes. Take one day at a time and do the best you can to stay healthy. Listen to your body and let it guide you along the way. Try not to compare your journey to those of others. You are unique. Your journey is yours.