I never planned on becoming a breast cancer survivor because, like most people, I never planned on having cancer. When you’re a young woman, breast cancer is the last thing on your mind. I naively believed it only happened to older women and there was certainly no room in my busy life for such an interruption. I was 34 years of age when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and about to learn that cancer is no respecter of age.
And now for the story behind the blog….
Following my diagnosis, I underwent nine months of treatment – surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy. I felt as if I had a new full-time job on my hands, a project which took up all my time. It was structured around appointments and moved through defined stages to a clear end goal. While I found the treatment grueling at times, I had my family and medical team behind me. It was only when treatment ended and that structure fell apart, that the full impact of what had happened hit me. I felt cut adrift. There is an expectation that when you walk out of hospital on that final day of treatment, your cancer story has ended, but the reality is that in many ways you story is only just beginning.
The apparent randomness of a cancer diagnosis can shake your sense of identity to its very core and afterwards nothing will ever feel certain again. Facing your mortality at an early age changes you. In my search to make sense of the experience of cancer and integrate it into my life, I started Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. While I found many blogs, chat forums and websites with great advice for those newly diagnosed, or going through treatment, I found it harder to access information on how to deal with the post-treatment limbo I found myself in. I passionately believe that more follow-up care is needed to give recognition to the post-treatment phase of cancer survivorship.
One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other’s stories ~ Rebecca Falls
Sometimes there can be a code of silence surrounding the aftermath of cancer treatment. We can experience feelings of fatigue, guilt, loneliness or depression, alongside feelings of gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose. As we transition from the treatment phase of survivorship, we are not always prepared for the maelstrom of mixed emotions which can hit us. I wanted to provide a space for survivors to share their experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly, so you will find many stories here of how others are journeying beyond their cancer treatment. In listening to these stories my hope is that your own journey of discovery and healing can be enriched too.