Breast Cancer: Stories of Hope - "I am a Cancer Survivor"

Throughout her work life, Charlotte (not her real name) was constantly racing with time. However, that all changed when she found a lump in her breast, on the eve of her birthday.

For many of us, living a busy lifestyle is a common phenomenon in modern day society. That was no different for Charlotte, who occupied her time with work and activities on the daily in an effort to be productive.

“My days were packed with activities every hour, minute and even second,” shared Charlotte. “I constantly demanded more from myself as well as from others. Each day was spent being productive and accomplishing as much as I possibly could.”

However, all that took a turn for the worse when she received a breast cancer diagnosis.

When uncertainty lies ahead

After being so used to a regular routine and productive life, the uncertainty caused by cancer can be unsettling and bring about disruption in ways that are not always welcome. For Charlotte, the news brought about many unexpected changes and turned her life upside down.

“Being diagnosed with the illness was something I accepted, but not without feeling lost from the uncertainty of what lies ahead,” Charlotte recalled.

“As a person who is fiercely independent, the fear of not being able to be on top of things was real and threatening.”

It is common for a cancer diagnosis to evoke many emotions in a patient, such as fear, anxiety, and a sense of loss—including the loss of certainty and identity. Fortunately, patients can adopt positive coping strategies to help manage these uncomfortable emotions and embrace the uncertainties that cancer brings.

“I had to learn to slow down, tame my impatience and let others take charge,” Charlotte shared. “Letting go was not easy. Any future plans I had were abandoned and shelved for good.”

The emotional struggles brought about by a cancer diagnosis can persist through the treatment process and into survivorhood. This is especially the case for treatment side effects, as they may adversely affect patients’ perceptions of their body image and bodily integrity.

“During treatment cycles, there were many challenging moments when my emotional turmoil took centre stage,” Charlotte explained. “The needles and the intravenous tubes that freaked me out, the falling out of hair in clumps that melted me down, the side effects that wreaked havoc in my body.”

“More than once, I harboured the thought of giving up and spoke about it to my doctor,” she admitted.

“I had a battle to overcome”

Despite losing courage and being on the brink of withdrawing from treatment, Charlotte found hope and motivation to keep going in the people around her.

“What kept me hanging on was the dedication that my healthcare team gave,” Charlotte conveyed appreciatively. “My doctor was attentive, responsive and competent in managing my case and any near-crises I faced. My nurses were empathetic and always tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible, despite their busy duties.

“They never even made me feel silly for having a needle phobia,” Charlotte added.

“They went beyond just doing their jobs. They were onboard a mission to save lives. I was moved by their relentless commitment.”

Experiencing a major life-threatening disease is not without its struggles. Many patients find comfort in having a strong support system among family and friends, as well as other patients to validate their experiences and go on this journey together.

“I had friends, and friends of friends, who shared their stories and experiences about fighting this illness Charlotte added. “These were inspiring. It helped me pull myself together.

“I had a chance and I needed to be strong. I accepted and embraced the support from friends and family. I had a battle to overcome.”

A new lease on life

Five years on, Charlotte has found a new lease on life. She no longer lives a life racing against time; instead, she is tuned in to a different pace of life, finding productive moments while appreciating all that life has to offer.

“There is now more time dedicated to personal interests and self-care,” Charlotte highlighted. “I cook and exercise regularly to feed and upkeep my body and soul, I pursue interests and hobbies that I missed during my growing up years and when I was busy building a career, I enrol in group activities to open up to old and new friends, and I also join volunteer groups to give and share kindness.

“I am a Cancer Survivor. I am glad I NEVER GAVE UP.”

POSTED IN Up Close and Personal
TAGS breast cancer, cancer diagnosis, cancer positive thinking, cancer survivorship, common side effects of cancer treatment, experience with cancer patient, women (gynaecological) cancer