A fellow breast cancer survivor and I were having a conversation the other day when she turned to me and asked what life is like after treatment has been completed. She wanted to know how long it takes for things to get back to normal. I really hesitated to answer her because I didn't know what expectations she had for the future and I surely didn't want to dash any of her hopes. But, after pausing for just a moment, I felt that the only thing that I could tell her was the truth and that is that if you are expecting that your life can go back to the way it was before your diagnosis that will never happen.
Breast cancer changes your life and the lives of those around you permanently. Even if you have a perfect outcome and you are told that you are now cancer-free, more than likely you will never be able to not be at least a little afraid that the cancer will return. As the years pass, it may get simpler and as you have your yearly examinations that reveal no sign of the cancer returning, the fear will start to alleviate. However there is no such thing as returning to your old self no matter what as long as we do not have the answers regarding how to rid ourselves of this disease permanently.
This is to be expected. Any individual who ever deals with any kind of catastrophic event in their life will tell you that it impacted them and changed things for them forever. Hopefully, you will be like most of the cancer survivors that I have been fortunate enough to meet because it changed them for the better. Most have an entirely different outlook on life and have learned not to take anything for granted. I know that when we wake up in the early morning, we are grateful for being given another day of life. We have so much gratitude for those who are in our lives and we are so motivated to live our lives simply and to share as much time as we can with our special loved ones. And most likely, we will be driven to be everything we ever hoped we could be and then some and probably we will chase after every single one of our dreams.
The most difficult part will be for those around us. Even if we are feeling and doing great, they may still have those lingering thoughts about what may happen in the future. They may carry those fears with them every single day and there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. Often they have a feeling of frustration because they have no control over exactly what is happening and particularly for the males in our lives that can be so hard due to the fact that they have been taught that they are the ones who are here to safeguard and make everything ideal for us. For the children, they are fearful due to the fact that in addition to not being able to do anything, they do not wish to face maturing without a most important individual in their life to guide them along the way.
The best that we can do is to take care of ourselves and lead the lives that we choose that will prove to be the example by which others can do the same. Of course we cannot go back to how things were before the cancer since the cancer changed everything. But in addition to all that we have to deal with on this breast cancer journey, we have discovered how strong we truly are and have an appreciation of whom we are that we would never ever have known under any other circumstances.