The holidays are fast approaching and my mantra lately has been “2018 is going to be my year”. I have already starting outlining all of the New Year resolutions and goals I have for 2018 from vacations, career goals, to getting back into running and yoga shape, the list goes on! However, amidst the excitement of a new year with new beginnings and opportunities, it has also been hard to realize all of the hardship my body has gone through from treatments to surgery, radiation, and experimenting with various hormonal therapies.
I thought the hard part was behind me, but accepting and understanding this next phase, this next phase that will most likely consist of 10 years of hormonal therapies to ensure breast cancer does not recur, is equally as hard, and I wasn’t expecting it to be! Are we ever prepared for what comes next?
I think it all hit me when I was mid-air, on an airplane and heading south to visit my family for Thanksgiving. These feelings always come at the most inopportune time don’t they? I was doing what everyone usually does around Thanksgiving:
-My bags were packed,
-I was visiting family,
-The holiday cheer was in the air,
and 30,000 feet somewhere over New York, it hit me, “I had cancer”, wait no, “I survived cancer!”
As if somehow, I forgot what a tumultuous year I had endured; my hair was growing back, my energy level was increasing, I was back to work etc. I was living the “normal life”. But out of the blue, mid-air, I started to panic. My mind started to race and all I could focus on was the millions of “what if” questions:
“What if the cancer comes back”? I have been having a lot of joint pain lately. Has it spread to my bones?
“What if the tingling feeling in my toes spreads and the neuropathy travels up my legs?” Maybe I should loosen my shoe laces.
What is going on? That’s it, I thought to myself, I’m going to be that person on the plane that presses the flight attendant call button requesting that we land in DC, I needed to get off the metal missile jetting through the air at colossal speeds. A minute felt like an eternity and I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to make it to my final destination, in beautiful sunny Florida.
This fear, anxiety, panic attack, or whatever you want to call it lasted only about 20 minutes. I’ve never experienced anything like this before nor was I expecting to!
We can prepare as much as possible for the required protocol of breast cancer, the doctors can tell us all about the side effects and what we can expect from chemo, surgery and radiation, but what I was not prepared for was the mental health component associated with cancer. To some degree, it’s the underbelly of cancer we do not talk about because there is still such a stigma associated with it.
I am determined to change that narrative!
In fact, I think it is essential that we continue to share our stories and talk about the uncomfortable. The topics of fertility, dating, sex, identity, and mental health!
This is all part of cancer care – treating the whole person, not just the disease.
If the quality of life becomes too compromised, we tweak and adjust. Suffering is not an option; the only choice is living!
The holidays can be stressful and bring up emotions we may or may not be prepared for. Here are a few tips for dealing with a diagnosis and the holidays:
Remember, it’s ok to say “no”. Don’t overbook or over commit yourself
Invite family and friends over to help with the cooking, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Plus the social company can take your mind off of things too.
Use services like PeaPod to have items delivered if it is too hard to get to the store, or ask a neighbor to pick up a few items for you if you can’t get out. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Take time during the day for yourself. Cozy up with your favorite book or magazine and enjoy reading with a cup of tea
Plan a phone date with a long-distance friend
Take a 15-minute walk, get outside and breathe in some fresh air
Look in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful, smile, and think of one thing you are grateful for on this day.
Happy Holidays from the SurvivingBreastCancer.org team
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