I am feeling just fine and have been for a while now. Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are only at the stage where your oncologist wants to see you every four months, those visits are nerve wracking.
Thursday is my four month check up. My last visit with my most amazing oncologist found me walking out of her office having received an A+ health rating from her.
Today I find myself wondering if the ache I had in my back was from hefting my suitcase around or if there’s “something wrong.” I have a hang nail — is it just that or is it a wound that won’t heal… how long have I had it? I woke up with a headache and wonder, is it just a headache or is it… something more? These are the fears that cancer survivors, whether it’s breast cancer, or other forms live with on a daily basis I imagine.
I was diagnosed on April 10, 2012 — almost two years ago — you’d think that after this amount of time one would be able to be happy go lucky and go about one’s day without worry. I wish.
It doesn’t consume me like it used to, but there are times when for no reason I can put my finger on I get a wash of nausea and stomach-clenching fear. There are days when I relive those moments as if they only happened yesterday. There are many days when I am home alone that I sit in the bathroom, looking at the cords that held the drains I had in following surgery and just cry.
I’ve been told it fades with time but I fear that every “anniversary” will bring it all to the forefront. (April 10, 2012 diagnosis, June 11, 2012 bi-lateral mastectomy followed by radiation followed by more surgery in 2013). I’ve been told that, “you look great! Aren’t you glad you’re all done with cancer?” All done with cancer? I think the other ladies that I know and have connected with on Facebook will tell you that you are never “all done with cancer.” Yes, there are many people who never have a recurrence, there are those who will go decades before being stricken again, and there are others who have a continuous battle. I don’t believe I will ever be “all done with cancer” but I put on a brave face and go about my day.
If you find yourself in a situation in which you’re dealing with something that is niggling away at you internally — whether you’re facing a doctor’s visit or other stressful situation in your life — try to employ these as a way to help reduce or relieve your stress (believe me I have learned them the hard way and even now I don’t always practice what I preach):
- Your worry won’t change the results or make the appointment come any more quickly. In fact, worry may make your health issue worsen. Negativity gnaws away at your internal organs and can not only exhaust you mentally but drain you physically. Action Step: Take a walk. Bake a cake. Read a book. Get together with a friend. Take a long bubble bath. Meditate. Even taking your mind off your worries for a 15 minutes is a blessing, trust me, I know.
- Talk to others who are in your situation. Surround yourself with people who understand your worry because they’ve “been there, done that.” My family is fantastic and has helped me through so much but there are just things that I don’t think they fully grasp and they probably shouldn’t have to. I have an amazing breast cancer online support group and they understand what I can’t even articulate at times. Action Step: Find a support group, whether on line or in person. Ask your doctor or a trusted friend to point you in the right direction. Find a group or people, or one person, who truly understands what you’re dealing with and the kind of support you need.
- Give into a good mental breakdown. What do I mean by that? Have a good cry. Go out into the woods and scream at the top of your lungs. Release your tensions. I freely admit I am a crier. I cry in both good times and bad. There are times I don’t even know why I am crying but I chalk it up to the fact that I was obviously dealing with some “stuff” that hadn’t come to the surface yet and crying helped cleanse it out of my mind and body. I generally feel better after a cry. Action Step: Cry. Yell. Punch a pillow. Curl up on the couch and pet your dog or cat — there is no better stress reliever than the love of a pet.
How do you stay upbeat and positive even when you’re quaking inside?