Dealing with the Mental Anguish Caused by Breast Cancer

Let me repeat that it is vital that you give yourself time, space and permission to go slowly as you move through this transition back toward your life. Remember, those who love you want to believe that your breast cancer is over and done with, cured. It is too frightening and painful for them to acknowledge the fact, you will still be living with breast cancer. They don’t want to know you will never receive a promise that you have been cured. Many other illnesses and health problems are truly over when they are over, and some people don’t understand that breast cancer does not work that way.

Difficult as this is to accept, the truth is your family and friends are eager to be relieved of their worry about you and to return to their own busy lives. The result of this is we find that the strong support we receive at the time of our diagnosis begins to fade as treatment goes on and may be much diminished by the time it is completed. It is unfortunate but true, your diagnosis may soon become old news to even those close to you.

Other serious concerns, may include noticing real changes or rifts in long time friends were not as present for you as you would have hoped they would be. And others came and supported you with prayer and strength. Now is not the time to think about whether you should talk with them about the hurt and disappointment, how you want to deal with the anger you are feeling, and even whether you want to expend the energy to try and repair those friendships. Focus on healing, worry about the rest later…after a lot of thought and consideration. You have to remember, some people have no idea how to act or what to do in this situation.

Family members, too, may not have behaved as you wished they would. You learned that a real crisis does not necessarily mend long standing family conflicts or issues. When you were first diagnosed, you were called regularly and had lots of visitors. However, as the months passed, people stopped reaching out as much and by the end of treatment, the old patterns of rare communication had been reestablished. This is completely normal.

Although you were aware the psychological support services were available to you at the time of diagnosis, it is only now that the emotional issues seem impossible to manage alone. Some women have a particularly difficult time psychologically and do not naturally and gradually regain their emotional equilibrium. While their feelings may seem to be more intense versions of what others experience and on occasion their symptoms seem to fit Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is not an uncommon human reaction to a terrible life experience and can affect survivors of any crisis or disaster. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping, mood swings, angry outburst, and flashbacks or intense preoccupation with the crisis. Although, more commonly associated with survivors of an accident, wartime battle, or natural disaster such as an earthquake or fire, and some women going through treatment for breast cancer also have feelings and behaviors that fit the model.

A woman need not have PTSD to become anxious or depressed. Sooner or later, you have to deal with the emotional trauma. Some women fall apart at diagnosis, and others at some point during treatment. For me it hit when all was done except the Tamoxifen. If you find that you are having difficulty sleeping, that your appetite has changed in either direction and you are either gaining or loosing weight, that you have lost interest in your usual activities and friends, that you have trouble concentrating and that you are frequently tearful or angry, and if these feelings persist for several months following treatment, you should consider talking with a professional.

I have written on this a lot lately. It is because it is now, after almost 4 years, that I have a real issue with it. It is a build up of events, through my life, that have started to bubble over. Being molested at 11, raped at 16, spousal abuse for 12 years, breast cancer, and survivors guilt, along with all the stress I put on myself of taking care (my husband has lymphoma and my mother has pancreatic cancer) of everyone and working a full time job…has gotten to me.

Writing makes me feel better, it gets it out and relieves the pressure. Plus I take an antidepressant and see a counselor once a month. There is nothing wrong with getting help, ladies.

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