After you go into remission or experience complete recovery from cancer, you may still have some troubles to deal with. Depression after cancer happens for many survivors. But you don’t have to handle it alone. We can give you some advice for living life after breast cancer to the fullest.
My fight against cancer lasted seven grueling months. It may not seem long, but during that time, I underwent 16 different cancer treatments, including a one-sided mastectomy and the reconstruction of my breast. Then it was over. I was cancer-free. The relief I felt can’t be described. But something happened after it was all said and done that I did not expect.
After my personal victory over cancer, I thought life was going to be one big celebration party. After all, I had a new lease on life — didn’t I? But slowly I came to realize that sadness and depression still weighed me down. I had scars all over my body, I was bald, and though my breast was reconstructed, I was missing a nipple. Life would never be the same.
Once I was cancer-free, the doctors pretty much left me alone. Don’t get me wrong — I was extremely grateful to them. After all, while I was undergoing treatment, they walked alongside me every step of the way. But now, the support system I enjoyed during that time was gone. Then there were the expectations. Everyone expected me to feel better — to be happy all the time. I wanted to please them, so I tried to pretend. But that didn’t work.
Think of it this way — fighting cancer is like battling in a war. While you fight, you’re surrounded by a team. Each of you is intensely focused on the same goal: defeating the enemy. But after the enemy is defeated, you’re left in a foreign land. Your comrades in arms drop away one by one, and you’re left not knowing how to live in this new terrain. Fighting cancer had become my sole purpose and the goal of all those who had my back, and that had been accomplished.
So once cancer is gone, what comes next?
What Kinds of Feelings Do Survivors Go Through?
Cancer has different emotional impacts for everybody. After recovery or remission, it’s completely normal to have feelings like:
- Lack of focus
It’s also normal to feel emotionally numb or incapable of feeling emotions. Some patients have hardly any emotional issues at all.
Why Do Survivors Go Through Emotional Struggles?
Many survivors consider cancer a life-changing experience. While we tend to associate trauma with abuse or military service, cancer also counts as trauma. And like any other kind of trauma, it can create a strong emotional impact, sometimes causing PTSD. Not every survivor dealing with post-cancer emotions has PTSD, but the disease can still change their feelings.
A lot of the worry and uncertainty that comes after breast cancer often has to do with the fear of cancer returning. After having such a scary disease as a large part of your life, it can be hard to understand that you don’t have it anymore.
Is Feeling This Way Normal?
If you have emotional issues after cancer, you’re having an understandable reaction to a major life event. Cancer threatens your health and your life, so it’s normal to have some lingering thoughts and feelings to work out. You have just gone through one of the biggest fights of your life, so be kind to yourself.
How to Cope With Post-Cancer Emotions
Everyone deals with their emotions differently. We don’t have a universal solution that will work for every survivor. Instead, you should try different coping mechanisms until you find one that works well for you. Try some of these common methods used to deal with mood problems:
- Open up to your friends and loved ones to avoid bottling feelings up
- Stay informed about your cancer
- Schedule regular screenings and appointments to reduce the worry of it returning
- Exercise and maintain a healthy diet
- Find a support group of cancer survivors to share your struggles with
- Get mental health care if you have intense feelings for over two weeks
You Are Not Alone
Many breast cancer patients and survivors out there can relate to your experiences. In-person and online blogs and support groups let you express your feelings and find unity with others. You belong to a community of strong, fearless warriors.
Once the treatments are done and life returns to “normal,” it’s okay if things don’t automatically click. It may take some time to deal with and adjust to all the changes that have happened in your life. It’s okay to grieve over what has taken place, whether it’s the emotional weight of what has occurred or the physical changes you’ve had to endure.
The most crucial step is to take control and take care of yourself. Whether it’s the support of family and friends, a new activity like jogging, or even therapy, it’s important to allow yourself the time to recover both mentally and physically. You are worth it.