Soon after I had finally completed my treatments, I visited every book store imaginable in my quest to get my hands on as many books on breast cancer as I possibly could. I would absorb them like the proverbial sponge and then go out for more. Some people including my own husband asked me if I didn’t perhaps think I was getting a little carried away or perhaps even becoming a bit obsessive. My answer was a big NO! I would say that if I was going onto the internet all the time and scaring the life out of myself reading up on statistics, then yes. You see the thing about statistics is that they are highly over rated and that is all they are, just statistics not facts. Scientists and doctors have seen fit to automatically slap a life span onto every cancer survivor based on how previous sufferers have responded to treatment. They then go and put it out there for everybody to read, including people who have just been diagnosed and are traumatized. Your initial instincts and yes I had those too in the beginning, is to drown yourself in those statistics. It is terrifying not knowing what is going to happen next when you are hanging from a sheer cliff face by your fingernails. I personally wish that I could banish those ridiculous internet sites altogether once and for all. The reality is that everybody’s journey with breast cancer is vastly different. No two people share the same DNA or chemistry, therefore cancer cells and how they react and metastasize also can vary greatly. How people respond to treatments also differ just as much therefore nobody can really know for sure what the outcome is going to be. I don’t care if the scientists surname is Einstein, no one has the right to play God and predict how long a person is going to live for. That is like saying that we are the only existing life forms in the universe. Not only is it arrogant beyond measure, but it is also being plain narrow minded.
The much more sensible thing to do in my mind is to get the facts and arm yourself with as much knowledge about your specific type of cancer as possible. First of all it helps to control the fear factor as well as helping you to make far more informed decisions regarding surgery and treatments further down the line, thereby avoiding any regrets later. If reading book after book is your way of holding onto your sanity, then so be it, but whatever you do, stay away from statistics.
Apart from reading book after book though, my time after treatment was also a real learning curve. Obviously it taught me how fragile life was and how quickly it could be ripped out from underneath you, but for the first time in my life I learnt to slow down and really appreciate every day for the special occasion it was. My personal relationships with both family and friends became far more meaningful and precious to me as I never took a single moment from there on out that I spent with them for granted ever again. Breast cancer is no doubt a life changing experience, but I got to the point where I was determined to take the good out of the bad and run with it. I still had three little girls to raise and I was sure as hell not going down without a fight.
Between writing assignments for a course that I had embarked on, I started taking horse riding lessons which is what I’d longed to do for many years. The girls did it with me and we used this valuable girl time to have fun together and cement our bonds. I also took up Hatha yoga which I found helped me to relax and taught me to remain more focused on the present.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and your treatments are behind you, one tends to fall into a rather unnerving lull right afterwards. All the fuss and attention that you received from the doctors and nurses during your treatments are now gone and it can easily feel like your safety net has been cut. That in itself is easy enough to get through by staying busy, but what follows afterwards is a little more challenging. It becomes a double edged sword that hangs over your head and you wonder whether your cancer might ever come back in the future. With time this idea or fear if you will, fades the further away you get from your initial diagnosis. This leads me to yet another dead line that doctors have set…you know, the one where if you don’t relapse for 5 years after you’ve been diagnosed, then you have the same chance of getting breast cancer again as any other normal person on the street. Sadly this isn’t always the case, as I found out the hard way.