From the moment I wake up in the morning, my mind is already running a million miles a minute thinking about all the little aches and pains all over my body. Anxiety, fear and worry build up inside myself before I’ve even opened my eyes. Was that pain there yesterday? Is this something new? Has the treatment worked? I’ve exhausted myself mentally before I’ve even gotten out of bed. The fear of recurrence is a nasty beast. It becomes a disease in itself and consumes my thoughts throughout much of my day. Even though the chemo and radiation treatments were both draining on me, it felt like a bit of a safety blanket. But once that all stopped, I didn’t have that protection around me anymore and I felt vulnerable.
As I prepare myself to start my day, I struggle to find the energy to get out of bed. There is being tired and there is fatigue. It began to set in about a couple weeks after radiation as predicted and hit me like a ton of bricks. No amount of sleep could ever make me feel truly rested. My energy ebbs and flows and I find myself sitting down to rest for a couple minutes which quickly turns into hours. And then as my head hits the pillow at the end of the day where I should be counting sheep and ready for a good night’s sleep, the viscous cycle continues all over again.
Through all of this, I’ve wanted to educate myself as much as possible to battle this cancer head on and win the fight. But in that, I have also had to face the realities of this disease. Breast cancer research has come a long way over the years and women’s chances of survival have increased; however, we are seeing higher incidents of it, including in young women. The research focuses on 5 and 10-year survival rates which are promising and give some hope but then they begin to steadily decline and that’s the part that scares me given my age. It becomes not so much a matter of if I’ll have a recurrence, but when. I still want to travel, make new memories, and maybe even start a family one day. It’s difficult to find a middle ground between being in denial of this reality and accepting it.
I’m still learning how to balance my life and fight with my inner demons. It feels like a struggle everyday. I try to eat healthy, but I’m also learning not to beat myself up when I want a treat once in awhile. I try to exercise to build up my physical strength again, but I also have to listen to my body when it needs to rest. I want to research as much as I can about this disease, but I also don’t want to overwhelm myself with information and think about every worst-case scenario. Going through treatment was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to face, but the fight doesn’t end there. It continues on now in different ways including living with the fear of recurrence and the unknown. We never know how long we may have on this earth, but it sure became a lot more real to me once I felt like my life was being gambled with.
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