Tomorrow is the first anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer. On this day one year I didn't know I had cancer. I was not worried at all. I went to the GP with a strange sore hardness in my breast. He thought it was probably a cyst but sent me off for an ultrasound to be sure. The ultrasound technician said it wasn't a cyst but was probably a fibroidonoma (sp?) which is a benign lump. The GP then sent me to the hospital for a biopsy to confirm this. The surgical registrar at the hospital gave me the choice of a needle biopsy or an excision biospy. I choose the excision biopsy - surgery to remove the lump & then they would biopsy it afterwards. The last thing the GP said to me before sending me off to the hospital for the biopsy was "I wouldn't lose any sleep over it". When the registrar was explaining about the surgery and what would happen she said "there's a tiny chance it could be malignant but we'll deal that if it happens". Apparently it did not feel like cancer. It certainly didn't feel like how I imagined a cancerous lump would feel. I had previously had an ultrasound on the other side for what actually did turn out to be cysts and they felt how I imagined cancerous lumps would feel. So, I had the excision biopsy and the next week went back to see the surgeon so she could check the wound and as a technicality confirm that it was a benign lump. I can remember sitting in the waiting room and the only thing I was worried about was the fact that I was waiting a long time and it would make me late for work. Finally the surgeon called me in and said "It's bad news - it's cancer". I didn't know what to do. She then got me to sit up on the bed while she changed the dressing and I couldn't think of anything to say. She scheduled me for more surgery the next week and introduced me to a breast care nurse, saying to her "Here's [Allicat], she's in shock". I remember thinking crossly "well it's your fault I'm in shock, you're the one you just told me shocking news". So, I had a meeting with the breast care nurse and she loaded me about with guide books and pamphlets. Then I went home and talked to my mum and we read the guide books together. I think we dealt with it by taking one step at a time. That first week we didn't know if it had spread or what treatment might be required. So it was almost that there was no use worrying until we knew more. We read the books and skipped the worse parts because they might not be going to happen. Now here I am one year on. I can see now that I have been relatively lucky. I had 4 months of chemo and while it was not pleasant, especially as it built up towards the end, my side effects were definitely on the lighter side. I was still going to work and doing my running throughout. In total I had 4 surgeries including a unilateral mastectomy. I was terrified about the mastecomy and I simply couldn't imagine getting though it. I talked to a woman through the cancer council beforehand who had had a mastectomy. I didn't know what to say to her and I felt a bit embarrassed but just the fact that she was still a functioning human being after her mastecomy was helpful to know. I still have hormone treatments for another 4 and a half years but it is otherwise over. So, I should be feeling good but instead I feel completely unable to cope. When I try to think about why I can't cope the main thing I come up with is: I can't cope with this feeling of being unable to cope. I have an appointment with my counsellor tomorrow. Last week we went over words to describe the past year and she said all the words I suggested were normal but she noted it was odd I didn't include "sad". I said I thought "annoying" was a better word that "sad". That is the attitude I have always had - I remember the day after I was diagnosed when I told my boss he said "that's sad" and I thought "no, it's annoying". The counsellor related me not being sad back to childhood trauma making me close off the part of my brain that would acknowledge this being sad. She said we didn't need to do anything about it, just make a note of it. I think this was an extremely unhelpful thing to say as I have been obsessed with whether I should be sad ever since. I think I could look at other people with cancer and think that was sad for them but I can't think that way about myself. Whether that shows that I am somehow damaged or whether that shows that I have good positive attitude I don't know. Thinking about it too much makes me cry. So, does that then mean I am sad? And, is that a good thing or a bad thing? If I keep like thinking like this I will go crazy. I feel very tired this week when I try to concentrate. I have had several naps but they have not made me better. I was at work all day Tuesday and I couldn't get anything done and had to go to the toilet a couple of times to cry for no particular reason. I'm having the rest of the week off. Hopefully tomorrow I can discuss the whole sad thing with the counsellor and then get past the anniversary and have a fresh start next week. Sorry for going on so long but it helps me to write things out on the page rather than just having them roll around inside my head.
7 Comments
Super Contributor
Hi,it seems to me you are sad if you can cry. I know at times I was sad but have not cried ,only teared up once and stopped. That time I was angry too because the doctor's opinion was that I should lose my eye and end up with a stick on one. I think I was mostly scared. I just wanted this thing out of me in a hurry .That was going on for 2 months as treatment was being planned. After surgery I was a bit shocked at my appearance. Even as it slowly improved I was at times sad,depressed and angry . My diagnosis was 1 year and 8 months ago so I may not remember all the emptions I was experiencing. When you were told about how you handle "sad" it reminded me I sometimes become angry if very scared. I think I either don't want to feel scared or don't want to admit that I am scared. It's as if that person has succeeded in scaring me,overpowered me and I don't like it so I get angry instead. I figured this out in my long ago past and it's not usual these days. So I think your counsellor may be right and that the emotion of sadness has been re-introduced to you as something you are allowed to feel. That could explain the crying. I am not a counsellor so this is just my own thought on the matter. It's been a big year for you and it's not one you can get over easily. Over 20 years ago a counsellor told me I was probably lonely. That had not entered my mind till then but it made me think, and I decided that perhaps I was as times. I wish you a great year which you can write about in a years's time .
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Frequent Contributor
I am sad about having cancer, because it has changed me and a lot of things (and people) are not important to me any more. I find that sad, because neither they nor I did anything to choose that. It just happened. Didn't it? I am not sad about my own life. I am happier and more content than ever before. I am sad about the collateral damage and always will be. I agree about writing it all down. Great idea. No sadness in doing that. H
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Contributor
Im thinking of you Allicat and sending love, this is all i can do. Jules
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Regular Contributor
I am sometimes sad, (I agree Harker about the collateral damage). I am sometimes strong and forward looking. I am sometimes deep in "what ifs". I have actually never been angry per se. But I know many others often are. I am confused at times, but as time between diagnosis and recovery extends, I am less confused. I am terribly sad when I hear of others being diagnosed. It is such a personal and varied response and times like anniversaries bring ot to the fore of your mind. Whatever you feel is probably right for you.
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Contributor
Hi Allicat, I think that dealing with cancer is a life long thing. How you deal with it changes over time, I tend to go through stages. Feeling sad didn't start till 2 yrs later. Up until then I think I was mostly scared, bewildered and angry - and sometimes in denial. Now I 'cope' really well - but I still cry every morning in the shower - a particular trigger for me. I just let it happen. I recognise that I am sad, that life is not exactly as I had planned, that I look a little different now, but I don't fight it - I allow myself to feel sad without beating myself up and once its over I get ready and go to work. I think in a perverse way I thought I should't feel sad - I should feel grateful that I am well, better off than so many others etc, but - it might be a little weird - but by allowing myself to feel sad, I actually feel better. So, there's no right or wrong way to feel or think about what has happened to us, we all face it in our own way. I hope you found some comfort with the counsellor last week. CJF
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Super Contributor
I think I will always be sad about having cancer whether I live for a short time or a long time.Like you CJF,I cope .Offline mostpeople wouldn't know this. I said to a friend last week that I think I have changed since cancer but she said she hadn't noticed a difference. I feel in myself that I have developed a hardness .On the other hand at times I do feel a lot of compassion for others who are suffering. It's hard to explain.
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Contributor
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There were a lot of things that described just how I feel. I think the lesson I should try to learn from this is that it is ok to acknowledge that a situation is sad but that doesn't mean that I need to just sit in a sad little heap. I can still be ok while dealing with a sad situation. When I talked to my counsellor she said that she has seen me sad lots of times because I have cried lots of times. I think I cried because I was scared rather than sad, but maybe the fact that I was scared was actually sad. But again that is a sad situation rather than me feeling the emotion of sadness. When I think back the thing that makes me feel saddest is when my mum came to visit me in the hospital. She brought a pack of cards so we could play a game and somehow thinking of her, who is not in very good health herself, gathering up a pack of cards and going to visit her youngest daughter in the hospital recovering from a mastectomy still makes me sad. So, my anniversary was on Friday. I'm glad it's passed. I went away for the weekend and it was really good to have a break from routine. Last week I felt unable to cope but this week I feel like I probably can.
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