When you get your diagnosis of breast cancer, you go through a wide variety of emotional responses.
First you question…
Are you sure?
I thought to myself, this is just a dream. When I wake up, it will be Tuesday morning. And when I get to the doctors appointment, he will tell me the it is nothing to worry about at all. Or that it will be Wednesday morning and I will get a call from the doctor tell me there was a mix-up in the lab. And my results are negative…not positive for ER/PR + Breast Cancer.
Of course, no such thing happened. It wasn’t a dream, mix-up or mistake. I had breast cancer and was showing classic signs of denial.
Then all emotional roller coaster begins…
All cancer provokes denial. There is something about breast cancer that drives women to extreme denial.
You close yourself off, hiding, hoping it will just go away. While most people work through this stage fairly quickly. It’s important to face reality and begin treatment as soon as possible.
It may be your loved ones who suffer from denial. It is important for you to help them face the reality of what is happening so they can offer you the support you will be needing.
You become overwhelmed. You worry about your future, how cancer will affect your loved ones, along with information overload from your health care team. I know a couple of women who had panic attacks during their first three doctors appointments.
Anger may be directed towards yourself. You are mad that you didn’t see this coming. Cancer is an unfair disease that nobody deserves. Understandably, we and our loved ones may feel angry that this has disrupted our way of life.
Anger will rise it ugly head from not having control of our life. You must be proactive in your treatment plan. Doing this will help you regain some control of what is happening to you and you must focus on the joy in your life.
We all experience some sort of fear during our journey through breast cancer. It is a normal response after our diagnosis. We are afraid of the treatment and how it will affect our body and mind. And how it will affect what we can and cannot do. We are afraid of how this will affect our husbands, children, parents and siblings. We are terrified at how this may affect our finances. But most of all, we fear our mortality.
We are afraid of surgery, radiation and chemo. We are afraid of the pain and sickness. But most of all we are afraid of what we will look like when it is all said and done. We are afraid that our significant other will not find us attractive or that we will not feel attractive any more.
We need to educate ourselves on all aspects of our particular cancer and treatment plan. Use your fear as motivation to help come up with solutions…don’t let it hold you back.
There is no way around it…Cancer is stressful! It affects everything in our life–professional, social, family, and financial. It is no wonder that stress and anxiety play such a big part of our dealing with cancer. Support from family, friends, and co-workers is critical. You need to accept help when it is offered. Seek financial advice if this stress is over baring.
Also, if your stress levels or anxiety seem to be getting in the way of your recovery, talk with your health care team and see what they can give you to help.
Treatment is rough! Sadness about no longer being able to do the things you love because of side effects and how they affect you. Even when you are cleared, you can still feel sad or depressed about the things you missed because you were to fatigued to go. You are saddened by the fact you may lose part of, one or both of your breast. You are sad because you don’t know why this is happening to you.
Many patients feel guilty during treatment and after recovery. We are worried that we are a burden on our families. We are concerned about not being able to do for our children what we need to do. We feel guilty that our colleagues picking up the slack for us at work. Some actually feel guilty because they think they brought cancer upon themselves.
It is important to kick the guilt to the curb and concentrate on treatment and recovery.
Cancer can be a lonely place. Family and friends can be supportive but often do not fully understand what you are going through. And some may not be able to emotionally cope with your cancer diagnosis.
Counseling and support groups can be extremely helpful if you feel isolated. Sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with others who have been through the same experiences will make you feel less alone. You may also feel alone after you have kicked cancer’s butt, maiming because fewer people will visit. They will be expecting you to jump right back where you were before you were diagnosed. They don’t understand that it could take a while.
Many of us find that once we get through all the negative feelings toward our cancer, we begin to feel hope. Hope that all goes well with our treatment. Hope that they will find a cure. Hope brings a positive attitude, which is an important element in recovery.
Plus we response better to treatment when we have a positive outlook on life.
Many survivors feel gratitude, because their cancer gave them an in-site to life they didn’t know existed, other than in movies. Fighting cancer can often lead or inspire people to go out and change their lives for the better. It makes them more adventurous. And they are less afraid of telling people how much they love them.
All of us, when we are diagnosed, going through treatment, and even when we are NED enter the emotional zone. We have to come to terms with all of it and learn to over come. And if you are having a hard time getting past it all, ask your doctor for the name of a therapist who deals with breast cancer patients.
Your emotions may run a straight course through these emotions. You may only actuations go through a couple of them. You could teeter between a couple of the before progressing through the rest. There is no rhyme or reason as to which emotions you will feel.
I went from denial, to being overwhelmed, straight into guilt and then into hope. I didn’t get angry or sad. I had no time for fear, or loneliness. I really think it had a lot to do with the fact that I got to skip chemo. I also just decided I couldn’t change it…but I could do everything possible to fix it.