When Treatment Is Over
Tuesday 12th September 2017
I read an interesting story in the newspaper recently that breast cancer patients often feel that the hardest part of life is after treatment, not during. And this got me thinking.... When you have an illness and you are receiving treatment there's generally a procedure to follow, you have lots of people around you (professionals as well as family) and to some extent, have an action plan of what you need to do. When treatment is over and you are get the news that you can carry on with your life it's brilliant! Like a huge weight has been lifted! Yet it's not quite as simple as carrying on like before.
And this is certainly something I experienced. The hardest time for me was probably the following 12-24 months post treatment, which you would think would have been the best. My operation went as well as it could and there was always the expectation that radio-surgery (a form of radiotherapy) would be needed. So, when that was confirmed it wasn’t really a problem. After both procedures when I was told the tumour would now shrink over the coming years I thought this would be the ticket to moving on. But it wasn't. I couldn't go back to the same life as before because I was a completely different person. I had different thoughts and worries in my head. I was anxious most of the time. I feared the future - what if I needed treatment again, what if I'm not as lucky as I was last time, what if I experience the side effects the Doctors spoke of. So much to try not to think about on an hourly basis. And this was so consuming it took over normal life. I still went to work as I had before, saw friends etc. but I did it all with my mind half on it.
There was a big part of me that didn't want to talk about it anymore, yet I also needed too. I wanted it to be over and forgotten but that would not realistically happen.
In many ways, looking back, the hardest time I faced was after treatment had finished. After a while the people around you move on and so they should. But it's not as easy for you. The hospital check-ups focus on test results not how you're generally coping with such a life changing event. It took me a while to face the enormity of what I had been through and the potential impact on my future. And it took a long time to put this in perspective and to keep living my life.
I’ve worked through all of this now and I know how to deal with it and do so very well. But it’s taken a long time for me to get here. For me, acknowledging that this was a big deal instead of minimising it was key. Accepting that nothing can change the past or a diagnosis and knowing that I still have lots of choices in my life that I can control was important. And talking a lot – family, friends, professionals.
We are all different so will need to take a different path to get to a place where we are happy. Yet I think anyone one who has experienced anything like this will know that as soon as treatment is over it doesn’t all stop. Support to live the rest of your life is the next step and one which is very much underestimated. So for anyone who can relate to this – shout up and ask for further support! Living the rest of your life may not be as easy as it seems and there is a big gap that needs filling.
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