As we come to the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month, it only seems natural that we should finish the month by taking the time to understand what surviving breast cancer means and how it might have impacted on many women’s lives.
But, before we do, let us take a moment to remember that breast cancer comes in many forms. Men can suffer from it too and, that despite the early detection reducing the survival rates by some 40%, there is still a very long way to go in eradicating breast cancer.
The unknown journey
For so many women, being diagnosed with breast cancer is an unknown journey that they are never prepared for, or nor should they ever be. That the road to survival is one that is often filled with fear, uncertainty, stress, pain, anger, sadness, and will test their emotions to the very limit.
Loneliness, sadness, anger, grief. Every survivor feels differently, and often many emotions at once. It’s normal for them to feel that others can’t or don’t understand what they have been through. It’s common for them to be angry about all they have faced and for them to feel like life isn’t fair.
The new normal
But, despite feeling all of these things, survivors often take strength from what has happened to them and talk about how despite everything they have been through. They have been rewarded with a double life, and how this starts by accepting what they refer to as the ‘new normal’.
Described as being one thing one day and something else the next day. The ‘new normal’ for many breast cancer survivors are very down to managing their emotions and remembering there is no right or wrong way to feel.
By understanding how breast cancer can change their sense of “normal.” How it may impact on their ability to do a job, spend time with loved ones, or go about their daily routine, breast cancer survivors often begin to see clarity and realise it is okay to feel frustrated by these changes.
For many, being able to manage their emotions is often the heart of surviving breast cancer.
By understanding there are ways to make this new “normal” easier, and that by finding ways to express and cope with their emotions, often helps survivors feel life can be a little easier to get through each day.
Managing their emotions
For breast cancer survivors, there is no right or wrong way to react to stressful feelings; however, by learning how to manage their emotions it does help to improve their quality of life.
But for many breast cancer survivors it’s not just about coming to terms with how they manage their emotions in this new “normal,” they are often forced to deal with what for them may be a significant change in their appearance.
While it’s normal to feel self-conscious or worry about how others will see you, accepting a new body takes time. For survivors learning to recognise any negative thoughts and to replace them with all the ways cancer has made them stronger, is very much part of accepting the new ‘normal’.
For them, their scars have a story to tell and are a symbol of their bravery and a reminder to everyone and anyone, that they made it through it, that they are more than their cancer. Always.
Learning to cope with their emotions and any changes to their body is never easy for any cancer survivor, let alone when you’re trying to cope with the aftermath of breast cancer.
For many breast cancer survivors, there is often a huge sense of guilt for the loss of their fellow pink sisters who have passed away from metastatic breast cancer.
For survivors who have followed and connected with friends and loved ones on a deeply personal level, these deaths serve as a constant reminder of how fleeting life after a breast cancer diagnosis can be. And, while they survive, the reality is that many are dying from this cancer.
The fear of the unknown and getting scans every six months really ensures those who survive live life with purpose and are very intentional in all they do.
Not knowing if all the cancer is really gone or if some microscopic cancer cell is slowly growing and not captured on tests is so terrifying and so very real, that many breast cancer survivors never declare that they are cancer-free, for them, every day it’s just part of the new ‘normal’.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals here in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. To learn more about Breast Cancer and Cancer Pro, visit www.cancer-pro.com