Emotional aftermath following breast cancer treatment

Posted by rhongirl @rhongirl, Aug 23 2:17am

While I was diagnosed in Dec. 2019, chemo, cancer surgery, and four more surgeries took place over the next 2 1/2 years (one of which was a second cancer surgery). I'm 6 weeks out from my last surgery, feeling somewhat normal physically, but wading through the emotional aftermath. "What just happened to me?" I told my husband that I've spent the past 2 1/2 years trying to stay alive – and I'm exhausted. Exaggerated emotions with up-and-down mood swings. . . I find myself yearning for that sense of emotional equilibrium I had before this all began. I'm doing my best to give myself time for this part of the healing – but I find myself weary. Family and friends look at me like I'm fine now, and the trauma has passed – but the truth is, I am not fine on the inside. It's as if my body is trying to reboot emotionally, and its short-circuiting a bit. I am so goal-oriented. . . if I just had that "magic" date of when everything would be normal again, I could focus on that; but it doesn't work that way. I have to be patient with this portion of the healing – and I'm finding that hard. What are others' experiences with this? How long does it take for your emotions to settle from the trauma of breast cancer?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Breast Cancer group.

I so understand the "trying to stay alive" part. It seems like everyone else have nice goals/plans while I'm simply trying to stay alive. Sometimes I forget that I have this and make myself busy with daily commotion, daily being the operative word. I guess that's why they say "one day at a time". Another thing that is so true is, this is a "emotional roller coaster". Some days happy, some days really really sad.
I do not have a magic recipe for you. I am just writing to share that you are not alone and I guess this is a new "normal" in our lives. Wishing you all the best, love.

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Boy, I'd bet we all know that feeling and feel compassion for a yearning to recover a state of cancer-innocence as I think of it. The body has survived a trauma or two and will rebuild on its own schedule. This will sound goofy but, when I had a bad back injury, my P/T (who'd nearly died from a worse one from a paragliding disaster) recommended that I talk to my body. So, when I had back spasms that literally buckled my knees and caused me to collapse, I had a different attitude. Instead of being angry or impatient, I figured that my body was trying to protect itself from being further injured and kind of thanked it for getting my stubborn attention.

I cannot stress how much it helped but it made ALL the difference in healing. And reminded me that many great thinkers have stressed the mind/body unity that western thinking and medicine have lost focus on. I think western attitudes treat the body as a separate entity…a body to be worked or dieted into some dumb current ideal, muscles to be developed into innanity, endlessly more competitive sports events… it's odd when one thinks about.

Cancer is the unwelcome visitor and likely a result of myriad assaults on the body, including, I firmly believe, environmental toxins. Whether some others understand what you're going through, there are thousands of people who do and applaud your honesty and thousands who've come out the other side of the tunnel and can 'remember' when they felt the same way you do but no longer feel that way as life refills itself.

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Six weeks is still early. You are not far out from your treatments/surgeries. You will probably return to normalcy with a different baseline, so to speak. The best we can do is have cancer on the back burner. Our view of the future is changed. But life can be good, and valued more. If the feelings persist, a therapist familiar with health issues can be helpful. I did that, briefly, and it helped me sort out what emotions (and exhaustion) was due to health, what were due to caregiving, COVID, other stuff. Honestly, in your/our situation, it would be unhealthy NOT to have emotional aftermath!

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@windyshores

Six weeks is still early. You are not far out from your treatments/surgeries. You will probably return to normalcy with a different baseline, so to speak. The best we can do is have cancer on the back burner. Our view of the future is changed. But life can be good, and valued more. If the feelings persist, a therapist familiar with health issues can be helpful. I did that, briefly, and it helped me sort out what emotions (and exhaustion) was due to health, what were due to caregiving, COVID, other stuff. Honestly, in your/our situation, it would be unhealthy NOT to have emotional aftermath!

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@windyshores Thanks for your thoughts. My masters is in therapy and counseling. . . so I can rationalize the ups-and-downs. . it's just a bit more complicated when it's me instead of someone else. Framing this in the context of "six weeks is still early" helps. 🙂

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Hoping you can read the article below that I posted, by just clicking on it. If not, try a copy and paste into your browser.

I’m glad you’ve joined us on this website message board. We’re all in this together and the support from everyone is wonderful!
https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2017/10/176194/life-after-breast-cancer-survivor-story

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@rhongirl
Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect!
As you can see, there are many of us out there that have been through the breast cancer roller coaster.
I’m not surprised that you feel the way you do. We all deal with the emotional healing differently.
I think it’s important to talk about it, sometimes over and over- similar to when you mourn the death of a dear one.
However, people who have not gone through this tire of listening after a while.
This is a good place to talk.
I had mastectomy and chemo 30 years ago.
I didn’t ask for help dealing with it- pretending I was strong.
I noticed that other women had social workers visit with them when they had chemo. Somehow I thought I wasn’t approached because I was a doctor working at that hospital.
When I was done with chemo I was surprised that I felt depressed instead of relieved. I then realized that I went into instant menopause from the chemo. What a mess!
What I should have done then was to see a therapist used to dealing with these issues.
That’s my advice to you- others offer other ways to reach a balance again. You will be okay again.

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@eku

I so understand the "trying to stay alive" part. It seems like everyone else have nice goals/plans while I'm simply trying to stay alive. Sometimes I forget that I have this and make myself busy with daily commotion, daily being the operative word. I guess that's why they say "one day at a time". Another thing that is so true is, this is a "emotional roller coaster". Some days happy, some days really really sad.
I do not have a magic recipe for you. I am just writing to share that you are not alone and I guess this is a new "normal" in our lives. Wishing you all the best, love.

Jump to this post

Thank you eku for your comments. I was about to respond but after reading your comment, I couldn't have stated my feelings better. I'm in my head all the time, experiencing repeating emotions, feelings and thoughts that are absolutely exhausting me physically and emotionally. It is so very difficult. Don't ever give up on yourself rhongirl, this world needs you.

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@eku

I so understand the "trying to stay alive" part. It seems like everyone else have nice goals/plans while I'm simply trying to stay alive. Sometimes I forget that I have this and make myself busy with daily commotion, daily being the operative word. I guess that's why they say "one day at a time". Another thing that is so true is, this is a "emotional roller coaster". Some days happy, some days really really sad.
I do not have a magic recipe for you. I am just writing to share that you are not alone and I guess this is a new "normal" in our lives. Wishing you all the best, love.

Jump to this post

Thank you for our comments, @eku Some days I can manage the new "normal" and some days I need more practice. It sincerely helps to know I am not alone. ;).

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@astaingegerdm

@rhongirl
Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect!
As you can see, there are many of us out there that have been through the breast cancer roller coaster.
I’m not surprised that you feel the way you do. We all deal with the emotional healing differently.
I think it’s important to talk about it, sometimes over and over- similar to when you mourn the death of a dear one.
However, people who have not gone through this tire of listening after a while.
This is a good place to talk.
I had mastectomy and chemo 30 years ago.
I didn’t ask for help dealing with it- pretending I was strong.
I noticed that other women had social workers visit with them when they had chemo. Somehow I thought I wasn’t approached because I was a doctor working at that hospital.
When I was done with chemo I was surprised that I felt depressed instead of relieved. I then realized that I went into instant menopause from the chemo. What a mess!
What I should have done then was to see a therapist used to dealing with these issues.
That’s my advice to you- others offer other ways to reach a balance again. You will be okay again.

Jump to this post

Thank you for your comments @astaingegerdm I do understand the people tiring of listening. . . . I've made a point to not speak of the journey to those close to me for that reason – and I think to my detriment. Seeking out a therapist who deals with those after cancer might be a really good idea. We live in a small, rural area, so this is not readily available – but perhaps telehealth might be a good alternative. Balance will happen. 🙂 it's just the getting there again.

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I sometimes liken our cancer journey to having a baby.

If you’ve had a baby you know that both your body and your mind needs time to adjust to the new normal. ♥️

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@astaingegerdm

@rhongirl
Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect!
As you can see, there are many of us out there that have been through the breast cancer roller coaster.
I’m not surprised that you feel the way you do. We all deal with the emotional healing differently.
I think it’s important to talk about it, sometimes over and over- similar to when you mourn the death of a dear one.
However, people who have not gone through this tire of listening after a while.
This is a good place to talk.
I had mastectomy and chemo 30 years ago.
I didn’t ask for help dealing with it- pretending I was strong.
I noticed that other women had social workers visit with them when they had chemo. Somehow I thought I wasn’t approached because I was a doctor working at that hospital.
When I was done with chemo I was surprised that I felt depressed instead of relieved. I then realized that I went into instant menopause from the chemo. What a mess!
What I should have done then was to see a therapist used to dealing with these issues.
That’s my advice to you- others offer other ways to reach a balance again. You will be okay again.

Jump to this post

I 💗 “30 years ago”!

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Thank you! Thank you for your comment!!! I too had breast cancer 8 years ago, 2 years ago and a reoccurrence last year! I went through a bilateral mastectomy this time! No implants this time. I want to be done! I have had 7 surgeries in 8 years. 5 years of tamoxifen. 6 months of chemo, 3 weeks of radiation and will have 5 months of a maintenance chemo drug. I am back to work, my hair is growing back and feeling much better. But emotionally-I need help. I am going through the day with a smile on my face, but I wish I could know for certain that I am done with this!!!

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