It has been two years since my breast cancer treatments concluded and I am happy to say, I am still cancer free. Beating cancer was one of the hardest things I have ever done, being free of it should bring joy. Yet, I have to say this statement (being cancer free), with a little trepidation. I am anxious every time I feel a twinge of pain, or when I do my monthly self exams. I am always afraid of finding a lump. When I visit my oncologist, my apprehension increases to a point of ridiculousness weeks before I actually see him.
As it turns out, this persistent anxiety is pretty common in cancer patients. There have been a number of studies done (one noted study was done by Lancet Oncology) that confirms anxiety is prevalent among cancer survivors and their families. “Our findings suggest that anxiety, rather than depression, is most likely to be a problem in long-term cancer survivors and spouses compared with healthy controls.”
I thought, when my treatment was finished that everything would get back to normal. I would go about day to day life as if I just recovered from a cold or the flu. No. That’s not how it has played out. My day to day is to have at least one episode of anxiety during the day and at least one as I go to sleep.
Are they detrimental to my well being? No. I get through them. I have learned to breath deeply and appreciate the little things that bring joy into my life. I reached out to my psychologist who taught me how to ride out an anxiety attack and how to see the good things in my life. I have learned how to cope with the devastation of my diagnosis and the possibility that cancer may return. Make no mistake that this is an easy journey. It is not. Some days are easier than others. My mantra is to remind myself that I beat cancer once, and I will beat it again, and again, and again.
I am a survivor.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!