So I finished radiation therapy for breast cancer three days ago and I feel so blessed. I received great care, a great prognosis, and I had wonderful support throughout the journey. So yes, I feel blessed. I also feel frustrated, sad, scared, and upset.
I feel frustrated because, while everyone’s diagnosis and treatment is unique (like DNA), we are often lumped together. “My sister/cousin/aunt/grandmom had breast cancer and they did XYZ and now she’s fine.” While I totally appreciate that it is really hard to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been diagnosed with cancer, I would like to suggest trying to just be in the moment. “I’m sorry,” is perfectly acceptable and enough.
I’m sad because my life is forever changed now. I have a scar, physically and mentally. I have to take medications for the next five years and I have the side effects of the radiation therapy that I’m still experiencing. I’m sad because, through this journey, I found out how many more men and women are affected by this horrible disease. I’m sad because now my husband and I share something that neither of us wanted the other to ever experience.
I’m scared because, while my prognosis is very positive, for the rest of my life I will have to be aware and vigilant. Cancer is something you think will never happen to you…until it does; and then, things will always be different. Whether it is you or someone you love, the fear remains.
I’m upset because well-meaning people tell me how great I look or “You don’t look sick at all.” I know they are trying to be supportive and thoughtful, but not all illness shows. I’m trying to feel better, but I’m honestly exhausted. And I’m trying to move forward, but it is hard when you don’t necessarily feel better physically or mentally. Please, do not misunderstand me – I deeply appreciate the sentiment behind the statement. Again, it is hard to know what to say. I guess what I’m suggesting is to meet the person where they are – it is not your “job” to fix things for me to cheer me up – just be where I am; wherever that is, and let me know you care. That’s all anyone can really ask, after all.
Cancer sucks! I never wanted my husband to experience it and he never wanted me to experience it; but here we are. I hope this journey makes me more mindful and more present. I know it has made me deeply grateful for the wonderful people in my life. So, now I’m back to blessed, deeply, truly and thankfully blessed.
Three days and counting.