Breast Cancer at 41: You’re Not Crazy But…
I share this because I believe going to a therapist is not a sign of weakness. To me it is a sign you acknowledge help is needed. I think it is very strong and brave to realize you need help. I hope that this helps someone who might need the confidence to ask for help.
During my last check-up with my medical oncologist, we were reviewing my status – both mental & physical. After my hysterectomy on February 25, 2014 I had felt relatively fine, actually good as my blood levels had slowly gone back to normal levels. However, once I was placed on Anatrozole, a hormone suppressant, I had become incredibly weepy. So much so, I could not stop crying.
Now, I’m not an overly emotional person – sure I can cry at the drop of a hat if it is warranted, but I was crying over not being able to fill out a camp form and bawling while watching a preview of the remake of the movie Annie. Yes. Seriously. Annie. This is when I knew I had a problem.
So I spoke with my doctor.
She asked if I was running.
Yes, I’m running, but I don’t think that’s the problem. I think it’s the medication.
Then she turned to me and said, “I don’t think you’re crazy, BUT…I think you need to see a therapist.”
She went on, “This is common with my very intelligent, highly motivated patients.”
Uh…..okay. Thank you for the compliment….I think?
But, deep down I knew she was right.
I had been so focused on getting through the tumor biopsy, the first round of surgeries, the diagnosis, the chemotherapy, the second round of surgeries and not letting it affect me or the children I had not taken the time to process all that has happened to me in the last year.
My way of coping was to put my head down, my blinders on and powering through. Now that it had been a year since my cancer diagnosis I was finally ready to breath. I was finally ready to let out my pent-up emotion I had been suppressing the past year.
Yes, she was right indeed. I needed to speak to someone.
I have been to a therapist twice in my life. The first was when my mother had died after a long illness, I had a miscarriage and found out my mother’s friend had stolen from her. The second time was when I was a small business owner. My partner and I were in the middle of a bad partnership in our 3rd location and we were faced with not one but two business lawsuits as a result. During each of these times, speaking with a therapist had helped me cope and ultimately move on from the problems. I had learned therapy is not about the therapist fixing the problem, but therapy is figuring out what the problem is so you can acknowledge and make steps to accept and make a plan to move on from the problem.
So what I learned from my therapy session:
I have always known I was going to get cancer, even before I did the genetic testing. In my mind, I was trying to make it past the age of 42 because my mother had been diagnosed at that age. I thought I would follow my mother’s path and die by the age of 54. Because of this I felt the need to cram as much into my life as possible.
But what I now know to be true:
I did get cancer, not at 42, but 41. Yes, it was aggressive cancer. But I am going to live because…
My cancer was caught early. AND I took the necessary steps to prevent it from spreading. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy. I had chemotherapy coupled with Herceptin treatments. I had a complete hysterectomy so I couldn’t develop ovarian cancer.
I cut cancer off at the pass.
The big bad cancer has come, but it has not conquered. It’s now time I realize I have more than 12 years left on this earth. It’s time for me to acknowledge I’m going to live, maybe even to 100. It’s time to breath. It’s time to celebrate. It’s time to live the life I’ve been given. And you know what, I haven’t shed a tear since!