Emotional Effects 10 Years After I Was Diagnosed
I used to think there would be a clear demarcation between having breast cancer, worrying about having a recurrence, and living without always worrying about the possibility. Now that I have passed the 10 year mark (read my Valentine’s Day blog), I see that is not going to be the case. You can’t really ever go back to that pre-cancer stage of innocence, no matter how much time passes. At least I can’t.
First of all, this week, for instance, I’m on the periphery of lots of bad news happening to other people my age. A good friend who has a brain tumor. An acquaintance who is dying of melanoma. Another friend of a friend whose husband, age 55, suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack. All reminders of how tenuous life is, whether you are acutely aware of it, as I am most of the time, or not.
Then, there are the physical ailments that always set off fears for me. This week I have a pulled muscle in my back which has spread to generalized lower back pain. My rational side is saying: gym injury, I never warm up properly, this particular muscle has been injured before. My irrational side is saying: bone cancer, ovarian cancer, etc. I was always a hypochrondiac. The difference now is that some of my darkest fears have already come true. So far, my rational side is winning. I have scheduled a massage, which should help if it’s a gym injury, not an MRI.
The good news is that as more times passes, the less real the nightmare cancer discovery and treatment stage of life seems. There are days when I think: did that really happen to me? Of course it did, but just being able to pose that question is progress of sorts. As normal life covers some of the scars, physical and mental, and your children grow up and seem less vulnerable, and some of your darkest death fantasies have not yet come true, it gets easier to feel hopeful about living a long and healthy life. Even for a natural pessimist like me.
What have your experiences been as time passes?
Published On: February 21, 2006