Its been 8 months since I last posted. I spent most of the summer sleeping. I thought maybe the fatigue was a side effect of the Tamoxifen, but it just continued to get worse. The moment I stopped I just fell asleep. I wasn’t interested in doing anything at all, I gained 10 more pounds and I was either crying at nothing or screaming at my family. I had fallen into a fairly deep depression before I asked my Oncologist for help.
Post cancer depression, anxiety, ptsd and other adjustment disorders aren’t uncommon among survivors. We all see the TV ads and the news stories with smiling survivors in their pink t-shirts talking about how cancer changed their lives. People start foundations, run multiple 5k races, write a book…surviving is supposed to reaffirm your life right? For the vast majority of us this just isn’t the case. I find that adding cancer and treatment into what was already a life full of anxiety and responsibility was just more than I could handle emotionally. I struggle with 2 kids on the Autism spectrum and a husband with combat related ptsd. Cancer threw me down a ravine that I couldn’t get out of.
After talking to my doctor, I started taking an antidepressant. Its been a few months now and I am coping. I am still exhausted all the time, but I can usually push through. I’m starting to get back to my usual routine with my family and things I used to enjoy doing. Drugs aren’t a fix all, but its helping enough for me to pull myself up the rest of the way. I still struggle every day. A friend of mine from my support group said that we are “hurting survivors”. Whether we struggle with side effects from treatment, depression, anxiety or fear; we are still survivors. People around us may not understand why we aren’t elated to be “free from cancer”. What they don’t realize is that you are never free from the fear of cancer returning. You never get back what cancer took from you, be it your breasts or your trust in your own body.
What I found to be an important part of my recovery is to acknowledge how incredibly angry I am that my body allowed the cancer in. I have no family history of breast cancer. I breast fed 3 children for more than a year each. Cancer never even crossed my mind. The fact of the matter is only 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary. No one ever tells you that. It felt unfair. I am struggling with forgiveness. I need to forgive my body. I need to forgive the universe. I just drew the short straw. It wasn’t intentional, and it was nothing I did wrong. Ultimately, I need to find a way to move forward. I’m doing that 1 day at a time as are many of my fellow hurting survivors. The struggle is real. The fear is real. Cancer is a haunting stalker that never really goes away. I guess the trick is to live in the light, know your risks, try to shake off the feeling of being cancer’s victim and accept being a survivor, even a hurting survivor.
Cheers and Happy 2017!