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PTSD after breast cancer

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stressed woman shaking head

One moment is all it takes for your life to change. For those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer of any type, we have it burned in our memory the exact second life as we knew it – as we loved it, was no more. For me, it was September 8, 2016 when I went for a biopsy on the lump I had found, and the radiologist told me to “prepare myself”. For those of you that follow Infinite Strength, for those that support us and the work we do, you know my story and how it evolved. But what you may not know is that it has been two and a half years since my diagnosis and I still struggle. Once you end treatment your cancer journey is not “over”, and things don’t get back to “normal”, and I really get aggravated when people make those comments (even tho it is innocent and meant to be helpful).

The fact is, PTSD after a cancer diagnosis is a real thing. And like so many others, I was left feeling insecure about my body image, and worse, insecure about what future I would really have. Would I recover my strength and energy? Would the fog in my brain lift so that I could feel clearheaded again? Would I ever be able to look at myself in the mirror and see beauty? Would I find some equilibrium only to get knocked down by the cancer returning? It takes a lot of work to find your “new normal”. You need a lot of fortitude to embrace the ‘new you” because you are different both physically and emotionally. And you need a tremendous amount of willpower not to dwell on the question in the back of all cancer patients’ minds: What if it comes back?

There is no easy way to deal with all of this, and everyone works through it differently. Exercise was a huge healer for me. As I gained physical strength, I began to get stronger emotionally as well. Talking to other breast cancer survivors helped because it took the focus off of me, and I was able to see that there were people fighting this disease that needed help…help perhaps, I could give. Finding something to focus on like Infinite Strength, helped me move forward because I felt truly productive again.

Slowly, I have come around to what my reality is, and I know that I am so lucky to be here and to be cancer free at this time. None of us know how long we get to live this wonderful thing we call life, so why waste time second guessing? And that is what helps me on the days I look in the mirror and see the uneven implants and the scars, it is what I chant to myself when I have joint pain that causes me to climb the stairs like I am an old woman, it is what I tell myself when the headaches are almost debilitating or when I literally cannot remember what I am in the middle of doing, as I am doing it. You don’t come through cancer unscathed, and the side effects of chemo and radiation and endocrine therapies can be scary. But, I get to wake up every day and see my husband and my kids and do all the mundane chores of making lunches and grocery shopping and laundry. I get to be there for my three daughters for all the good stuff and the eye rolls when they think I am crazy (so many eye rolls). I get to love my husband, and get aggravated by my husband, but always love him and be loved by him. It is those things that remind me I am lucky!!!! God, I am lucky!!!! And that is why Infinite Strength is so important to me. The work we do enables others fighting cancer to be relieved of some of the financial burdens this diagnosis places upon them. It enables them afford comfort care costs that can help them physically and emotionally, and I like to think it helps them concentrate on recovering and healing, so they can begin to find their new normal – whatever that looks like.

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