Breast cancer is a weird beast that changes you in many ways and the aftermath of cancer is something that is far too rarely talked about.
When first diagnosed, patients immediately have a team of doctors and nurses; schedules get filled with appointments, scans, tests, and procedures on top of their already full lives; friends and family oftentimes are more than willing to jump in and offer help, meals, gifts, prayers and support; life is busy and life is full.
Then active treatment begins and puts us into survival mode. We often feel laser-focused on
trying to navigate through the side effects of treatments, trying to keep family life as normal as possible for kids, feeling sick and constantly thinking of everything that is going on.
Surgeries take us out for a while and we often have our army of support there to help us through and care for us through recovery and although it's painful and it's tough, we get through. But then it begins. For those who are blessed to make it to the other side...to be in remission...the aftermath begins.
What isn't talked about when a breast cancer survivor finishes active treatment and is ready to "move on '' with her life is the new normal that she has to figure out how to face day in and day out without anyone really understanding: the brain fog and lack of memory, focus and cognitive function that may leave her feeling incompetent and frustrate her more than anyone might ever know; the constant and almost debilitating hot flashes that cause a downpour of sweat in a matter of seconds which makes her feel crazy and irritable and takes her focus away from anything that she was doing in the moment; the medically induced menopause and all the harsh side-effects that come with it; the choice to have (more) kids taken away from many young survivors and then having to hear the constant questions for years to come of when you're having (more) kids; the chronic pain that is a result from (multiple) surgeries or treatments; the new limited range of motion that doctors just can't figure out; the cording and scar tissue that fills her upper body and causes pain and mobility issues that has to constantly be worked out multiple times a day every single day and constantly reminds her of what cancer did to her; the daily medications that she has to take just to lessen the risk of recurrence that often has awful side effects and can slowly diminish quality of life; the fear and anxiety of the cancer metastasizing any time something hurts or something feels off; and SO MUCH MORE.
THIS is the stuff that people don't talk about. This is the aftermath of cancer -- and it doesn't just last for a month or two...it can last for years...it can change who you are...BUT, it doesn't have to change who you are for the WORSE. Bad circumstances do not have to cause bad changes. My motto through my cancer journey that has always stuck with me is, "There is PURPOSE in the PAIN" and despite the challenges of the AFTERMATH, I do believe there is purpose in the pain!
I believe that we can use our journey for good and to help others. We can be the voice for others who don't know how to talk about things or even understand what they're going through or are about to go through. I believe that the challenges we face can open our eyes to see life from a different perspective, if we let it.
You see, mindset is everything. A quote that I heard while listening to a sermon by Joyce Meyer many years ago, "What you THINK ABOUT, you BRING ABOUT'', has always stuck with me. Of course we can easily focus on the challenges life brings... There are many issues and many things that don't make sense and that seem unfair. But, no matter the cause or the reason we feel we were dealt the hand we were dealt, there is also always something positive to see as well.
You can choose to find joy in your circumstances...even with cancer. You can choose to be a light wherever you are-- even in the chemo room or with your nurses or other patients. You can choose to show others that despite your hardships, you are choosing life and choosing to fight hard to make it through.
Choosing joy or choosing to focus on the good during the hard times doesn't mean you have to put on a fake smile and act like there is nothing going on, however. It's an energy you put off that others around you can feel... it's being honest and raw sometimes to help others understand or get through their problems; it's focusing on what you CAN do, instead of what you CAN'T do; it's focusing on building others up and serving those around you; it's about knowing that if God brings you to it, He WILL bring you through it and trusting that He works ALL things together for good (Romans 8:28) and it's about never giving up.
So if you are like me and living the daily struggle through the aftermath, I want to remind you that although you may feel CRAZY, alone and misunderstood, that you are not alone. You are stronger than you feel -- you are braver than you think -- and you are loved so deeply! Even if you don't see it, you are impacting people all around you every single day... What kind of impact are you having on those people? I challenge you to find the purpose in the pain --- to find one positive thing from your journey... to find one positive thing you can say to/about yourself or about someone around you... to really search for a way that your experience can have a positive impact.
No one will ever understand all that you've been through and are going through, but that's ok --- despite it all, keep fighting through the aftermath --- find joy --- choose life. <3