Day 30: Vulnerable

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Here it is: My last post in the 30-day challenge to write a post a day during breast cancer awareness month! Originally, I thought that I’d end on the topic of my last post, reflective. It made sense to discuss what I’d been through and how I’d changed. Then, I decided to end the month on a feeling that many breast cancer overcomers I know have expressed, feeling vulnerable.

Once you’ve had cancer, it’s the ghost in the rearview mirror that could come back to haunt you at any time. Before I had breast cancer, I never thought much about it. I didn’t know how common it was, and I never ever thought it might develop in me. When I went to my mammograms and exams, I just knew everything would be fine, and I’d be on my way. After I had a breast cancer diagnosis and went through surgery and treatments, my outlook was completely different.

I could never get the oncologist to state a percentage on the chances of cancer returning. It’s always a possibility that the same cancer can return, or that a completely different breast cancer can develop. From what I read online, the chance of my developing breast cancer again, based on my cancer and treatment particulars, isn’t much different now than from that of a person that never had the disease. I mean, 1 in 8 women already get breast cancer. The odds aren’t great for any woman. I, once again, joined that number.

While I know what I’ve read, I feel so vulnerable. I worry about whether the cancer will return. I dread my mammograms and physical breast exams. I’ve felt things in my breast tissue and asked for an early exam. I’ve sat in the surgeon’s chair, as she’s the one that gives the mammogram results, and wanted to get up and run away. I haven’t been given any bad news in the four years since treatment ended, almost 5 years since the tumor was removed, but the fear of getting cancer is always the in the background, haunting me.

I’d guess this fear of recurrence occurs for anyone who’s had a serious illness or an attack of some kind, like a heart attack or a stroke. I don’t dwell on the fear every day but it hits me at times, on days when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable. I think it will always be this way for me, my pink sisters and others who’ve had cancer.

It feels good to talk to other women with cancer occasionally to share our vulnerability. It somehow makes the feeling easier to bear. If you’re vulnerability and fear is getting to you, find someone to talk to. Any friend or relative you like talking to will do, as we’ve all been through something, but a cancer survivor will know how you feel. Talk to your doctor or a counselor if needed. Here, on Halloween, there are enough little ghosts and goblins out there for trick or treating. Don’t let the ghost of breast cancer change your life negatively. Be thankful for whatever life you have to live and love every moment of it.

Thank you for reading my 30-day blog on the emotional experience of breast cancer! I loved writing it and enjoyed the feedback I’ve received. My favorite moments were the connections some of you made with the emotions. Stay tuned to the next chapter of my blog, which I’ll announce soon. Love and Hugs – Denise

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