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Worry. Worry. Worry.

Worrying and cancer go hand-in-hand. It’s possible to take a step back from excessive worrying and give yourself a break.

Worry. Worry. Worry.

A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work. John Lubbock

I admit it. I’m a worrywart.    

I’ve worried about little things and not so little things. When big worries have me in their grip, it’s hard to fall asleep and, if I finally pass out, I’ll probably find myself wide awake again in the middle of the night with no hope of getting back to sleep.

I also can't eat when I’m really worried.  

I’ve worried over cancer through exhaustion and back around again. I’ve done stints of long-term worrying (six and a half months from my first worrisome mammogram to my mastectomy) and intense, short-term worrying (15 harrowing minutes waiting to discuss a post-mastectomy mammogram.)

To validate all this worrying, I try to convince myself it gives me control. Perhaps by running through every possible outcome I’ll be prepared for any eventuality. Maybe I’ll find a solution if I just keep thinking it all through. Of course, mostly I just end up exhausted and hungry.

Cancer brought me to the pinnacle of worrying and forced me to search for relief. In a panic about my upcoming mastectomy, I found a guided imagery CD, Preparing for Surgery: Guided Imagery Exercises for Relaxation & Accelerated Healing. I put it on my iPod and, at least once a day for weeks, let Dr. Martin Rossman focus my imagination away from worries and onto relaxation. At night, guided imagery calmed my nerves and got me to sleep.

When the day of my surgery finally arrived, I was nervous but ready. I took the iPod with me into pre-op and continued to listen to the guided imagery exercises until I actually went into surgery. That CD made a huge difference and helped get me through a horrendous experience. 

Read more at CURE.

Survival > Existence,

 

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Searching for Someone to Talk To

I've struggled with miscarriages, infertility and breast cancer. Each trauma isolated me from others who couldn't possibly understand my experience. The pain of cancer's isolaltion was the worst. In my latest article at CURE, I share my search for someone to talk to:

Part of the healing process is sharing with other people who care. Jerry Cantrell

The lead up to my mastectomy was a time of crushing anxiety. But, never once in those six and a half months, did I find anyone I could talk to about what it really felt like to have cancer.

It’s not that I didn’t try. I looked to friends and family, but backed off when guilt at causing them pain collided with my intense desire to protect them from that pain. And, in truth, there was just too much I couldn’t explain and they couldn’t understand.

Of course, they kept trying to support me emotionally and I’ll always be grateful they did, but there was only so much they could do.

At one point, I reached out to the only other person I knew who had cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and her drug treatment caused permanent, disabling side-effects.  

We didn’t know each other well, but she shared her struggle with being sick and “feeling like an old lady” in her forties. She grieved the job her disability forced her to quit. As a wife and mother, she wrestled with guilt and anxiety as cancer wreaked havoc on her family.

Read more at CURE.

Survival > Existence,

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What it Takes to be a Good Patient

Between infertility, miscarriages and cancer, I've had my share of health issues. When it comes to figuring out how to be a good patient, I'm still learning because cancer, as we all know, is never really over:

What it Takes to be a Good Patient

It’s not easy to be good at something you hate, especially when it comes to being a patient.

Having lived through two miscarriages and infertility before cancer hit, I had basic skills. I knew how to show up (on time) for appointments, wait patiently no matter how long it took, honestly answer questions and listen intently.

But cancer took being a patient to a whole new level. There was a new language, not much time to learn it, and much more on the line, like the husband and two children we now had to worry about. 

Being older and more experienced than I was when we struggled with infertility helped. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was somehow able to stop my breast surgeon as she explained the “how” of my mastectomy to insist that she go back to the “why.” To prepare for an intelligent conversation about reconstruction with my plastic surgeon, I did research on the internet at credible sites.   

I tried to ask questions, speak up and be my own advocate. As time went on, however, cancer wore me out and I had less and less energy to assert myself.

Read more here.

Survival > Existence,

Image courtesy of Scott Robinson

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How to Cope with the Pressure to be Over Cancer

One of the hardest things I had to deal with after my mastectomy was the pressure to be over cancer.

I know they meant well, but the friends and family who announced "the worst is over" and moved on left me behind in their dust, unable to follow. 

Of course, all of the pressure I felt wasn't external. I pressured myself too by expecting somehow to return to "normal," an expectation that took its own sweet time to die.

But slowly, and with immense support, I learned how to relieve the pressure. 

How to Cope with the Pressure to be Over Cancer

My pre-cancer self knew nothing of the disease. I stumbled through the four and a half months it took to get a diagnosis like a kindergartener in a graduate course.

At six and a half months in, I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. By then, my bright red, hip-to-hip scar, missing nipple and asymmetrical breasts gave me a pretty good handle on cancer’s physical effects. 
 
Getting my head around the emotional consequences was infinitely harder.  
 
Looking back, it’s not like I didn’t feel anything. I was miserable, fatigued, lonely, stressed, angry and overwhelmed. But, unlike physical scars, the severity of those wounds wasn’t obvious when I looked in the mirror. 
 
I had no idea then that recuperating from the emotional devastation of cancer was going to be even harder than recuperating from the physical damage. 
 
In fact, people I trusted told me the exact opposite. As soon as I got home from the hospital, friends and family expressed relief that “the worst is over” and returned to their regularly scheduled lives.  A cancer survivor I knew and one of my doctors assured me that cancer would take a year of my life and then “it would be over.” 
 
Read more at CURE

Survival > Existence,

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Comments

RBL's picture

My best friend is 30 years old, and she just finished treatment and is having her mastectomy and reconstruction before starting radiation. I've learned so much about cancer through her experience. It's a long journey, and being done with treatment and surgery does not mean the journey is over. There are so many things that will be with her for the rest of her life, and I was completely ignorant to those things. People just aren't aware until they are going through it or know someone going through it. I think I often struggled to find the right words with my best friend--even though I've never been at a loss with her since we've known each other over 25 years. This article is a great read for people just starting the cancer journey themselves or know someone just starting.

Debbie's picture

RBL: 

You bring an interesting perspective to this discussion. I was ignorant too before I was diagnosed and would surely have been at a loss as well. I guess we learn what we have to and I'm so happy for your friend that she has your support and understanding. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

Debbie

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Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Seeking Participants

I'm happy to announce that I've signed on as a Cure Click Trial Ambassador. Cure Click is an initiative started in partnership with WEGO Health designed to spread the word about important clinical trials by mobilizing health activists such as myself.

The first clinical trial I've learned about evaluates a new potential treatment for HR+/HER2- breast cancer. The majority of breast cancers are hormone-receptor positive (HR+), which means the cancer cells grow in response to hormones. Such cancers are typically treated with hormonal therapy.

There is a clinical study available seeking participants who have breast cancer in order to evaluate whether the study drug combined with hormonal therapy has better outcomes than hormonal therapy alone.

More about the study:

The investigational drug is administered by oral capsules and the hormonal therapy by injection into your muscle.

At least 193 people have already taken this drug in clinical trials.

There will be 550 participants in this trial.

If you are interested, the full study details and eligibility criteria are listed here.

Eligibility Criteria:

Participants must:

have been diagnosed with breast cancer which expresses at least one hormone receptor (estrogen receptor or progesterone receptor) and is HER2 negative

have stopped having monthly menstrual cycles either naturally or through surgery or hormonal treatment

Participants must not:

have received chemotherapy for metastatic disease (neoadjuvant and adjuvant chemotherapy is allowed)

be currently participating in any other clinical trial

have a history of central nervous system metastases

Please complete the online questionnaire to check if you’re eligible for the trial.

If you’re not familiar with clinical trials, here are some FAQs:

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies to determine whether investigational drugs or treatments are safe and effective for humans. All new investigational medications and devices must undergo several clinical trials, often involving thousands of people.

Why participate in a clinical trial?

You will have access to new investigational treatments that would be available to the general public only upon approval. You will also receive study-related medical care and attention from clinical trial staff at research facilities. Clinical trials offer hope for many people and an opportunity to help researchers find better treatments for others in the future.

Learn why I’m talking about Clinical Trials

Please feel free to share this post if you know anyone who might find this information interesting. 

Survival > Existence,

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