A lot of us with breast cancer face the question, “Aren’t you finished?” And the answer for most of us is, NO! As if I am not reminded everyday, I was also recently reminded by a friend on social media as well and I thought it would help to get it out of my system to write a little about it.
Yes, I have had my surgeries. Yes, I have finished chemo. Yes, I have finished radiation. So, I’m done, right? NOPE.
There are a few more things that go on that not everyone knows about. For me, I have 5 years of medication to take and for a lot of people that isn’t really much of a problem. But for me, it just happens to be so. I, unfortunately, have a side effect not everyone gets. I’m not whining, just saying it like it is. I have 24/7 leg pain. And again not everyone gets it. (This isn’t to scare others going through breast cancer, this is more about informing.) My doctor says after getting off the meds the pain should go away. So I have a little over two more years.
I try lots of different stuff to relieve the pain.
- I try not to sit for long periods of time with my legs bent, so I sit in a recliner.
- I have a compression machine for my legs that I use for an hour a day (that’s 1 hour a day when I don’t have pain).
- I try to exercise. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not great at this but I try. Right now I am taking tap classes and and I practice at home!
- I take different kinds of pain medications.
So I deal with it, the medicine hopefully, is going to improve my odds of living the rest of my life without getting breast cancer again.
There is also lymphadema. Now I don’t have a very bad case of it, but every once in awhile it flairs and my chest and arm swell a bit. It hurts a bit and I put on my compression sleeve and usually within 12 hours it’s better. I’m lucky because during surgery they only took a few lymph nodes and only if I point it out would anyone notice. I don’t know if this will ever go away.
General feeling. It’s the new normal, which means it will never feel normal again. Muscles have been rearranged, stretched beyond what they should be and in general I always notice my foobs (fake boobs). To me, they don’t feel real, to me, they are hard as rocks, to me, they are always cold (poor circulation), to me, they are in the wrong position, to me, they don’t move, to me, they are scarred beyond what I want to look at.
There is also the mental aspect. Will my brain ever get over it? Prob not, in the back of my mind I will always wonder if this or that means it’s back. I go to therapy, I write these blogs and I talk with friends who are also going through it. We support each other like I have never seen. I also do craft projects like needlepoint and coloring (also helps with pain). And last but not least, I have started volunteering and driving other cancer patients to their appointments (Road to Recovery with the American Cancer Society) . Being able to be there for someone else who needs help really helps my brain and helps them get where they need to be.
So yes, I may be finished with all my treatments, but will I ever be over breast cancer. I really hope so, but I don’t know. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, what I want is for people to understand that there is so much going on outside of the treatments and to get eye rolls, or ughs or OMG’s you are done with that, can be upsetting to those of us going through it all.
Again, this isn’t to scare anyone. everyone is different. What it is for is, please don’t judge a book by its cover. We don’t look sick and we don’t always look like we are in pain, but we are going through something and it is REAL.