The following is a personal story from Bonnie, an ambassador of MyBCTeam, the social network for women facing breast cancer, and nine-year breast cancer survivor. Below she shares her perspective on creating a new “normal” post breast cancer treatment and beyond. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, go to www.MyBCTeam.com and connect with other women who ‘get it.’ Thousands of women from all over the country are here to share not only their stories, but their daily lives: the good days and bad days of living with breast cancer.
You are certain to feel sheer joy and relief at the end of breast cancer treatment! Whew, you think, I finally made it to the end of a long and painful process! Ending treatment is definitely a reason to celebrate and you probably can hardly wait to return to life as “normal.”
But you may quickly find out that life as you knew it before treatment just isn’t the same. Gone is the safety net of a team of doctors, nurses, technicians, and other means of support that are no longer there for you on a daily or weekly basis. Family, friends, and employers may have high expectations that you will be the same person you were before treatment. You will probably have the same high expectations of yourself. However, cancer is a life-altering experience and you will most likely be faced with establishing a new “normal” as a breast cancer survivor.
A myriad of things may present themselves at the end of treatment and it’s quite typical to go through an adjustment period. Experts estimate that it takes as long for you to rebound from treatment as it did for you to go through treatment*. However, we are each different and it may take weeks, months, or even years to make the adjustment.
It’s often said that cancer treatment is one of the few treatments that leaves you in a worse condition than you were before you started. This is often true for most breast cancer survivors. Some of the feelings and side effects you may experience at the conclusion of treatment may include: fatigue, anger, loneliness, depression, anxiety, grief, pain, permanent scars, body image adjustments, lymphedema, neuropathy, menopause, weight gain, changes in cognitive functioning (“chemo brain”), changes in intimacy, increased stress, fears of recurrence, along with other feelings and side effects related to your particular treatment.
But there are also positive things that can happen at the end of treatment. You may appreciate life more, become more spiritual, change how you think about life, reduce your stress at work and at home, adopt healthier eating and sleeping habits, and you may even decide to channel your energy into becoming a breast cancer advocate or become a source of support to others who have been just diagnosed or are undergoing treatment.
The biggest thing you need to give yourself is adequate time to heal and adjust. Be reasonable with yourself. Don’t set your expectations so high that you can’t reach your goals. Consult with your doctor(s) about side effects that are still lingering. Join a support group. Share with your friends, family, and employer that you are going through a period of adjustment and ask them to allow you the time to adapt. Rest, relax, and know that eventually you will come to terms with accepting the things you can’t change as a result of treatment. Time is your best friend after finishing treatment. Best of luck to you as you find your new “normal”!
To find support and offer support to other woman facing breast cancer, join MyBCTeam today!