Breastcancer.org has introduced me to so many "sisters" that have fought or are fighting this same fight along with me. The ladies from my September chemo group have seen me through some really rough times because of their amazing spirit and the fact that they were going through exactly what I was at the same time. Even now, five months after chemo, we are still dealing with what treatment has done to our bodies (and minds). I also post in a January surgery group and those "surgery sisters" help me every day by understanding and supporting me and encouraging me with their shared experiences. When you are struggling with something, it's so comforting to know there are other people who know exactly what you're feeling. These ladies are more than just screen names on a web site, they are warrior women who have become my friends.
Now that most of us are on the tail end of treatment, the physical effects of breast cancer treatment and surgery sometimes take a back seat to what we are facing and will continue to face mentally and emotionally....for the rest of our lives. Unless you have walked in a cancer patient's shoes, you really can't understand what we go through. Not to say that you can't help, because I have AMAZING people in my life who have been there for me and supported me every step of the way. But I can talk until I'm blue in the face about things that go through my mind and you may sympathize, but you will never truly know what it's like (and I hope you never do!).
One of my January surgery sisters wrote a post about this and her words were so eloquent and spot on, I just have to share them:
"I don't think that the amount or types of treatment you get make any difference to your emotional reaction. You were diagnosed with cancer! That shook my world off its axis, and from getting to know the other ladies on here, it did the same to them, too. We were in control of our own lives. Many of us were diligent about mammograms and PAP smears. Then BOOM! You don't know or understand your body, or this thing that has taken control of it. But we move thru it, doing what the doctors tell us to do. Outsiders (people who have not walked in our shoes) don't understand the emotional ramifications of cancer. Or the physical ones. My kids were great thru chemo and surgery. But they don't get radiation at all. The cancer is gone, so the radiation is no big deal. Anytime I mention being burnt to a crisp, or I am so tired, their response is, yeah, but it's almost done... like it's no big deal.
I don't think "outsiders" are being intentionally mean. They miss the "old" us and want that back. They truly think that cancer is like a really bad flu or something - with time, and proper care, it will go away. And you have had the time and proper care, so stop whining and obsessing about the past, and get back to being you. The problem is that cancer is not a flu, and you don't get over it. There is that fear, that I pray lessens as time goes by, but will never disappear completely. Your faith in your own body is shaken, at best, and your body isn't capable of doing the things your mind tells it to do. They don't get any of that. You are cancer free, so it's over."
I will say that nobody in my life has made me feel like I need to "get over it". I have an incredible support system and I'm forever grateful for that. But A's words are true for a lot of people. I don't want cancer to run my life forever, but it is life-threatening and life-altering, and has been the priority in my life for ten long months. There is no "getting over" that.
I'm forever changed. I'm still me, but I will never be the same.