Practising self care after breast cancer isn’t always easy, especially in the lead up to Christmas. Fay shares five tips for being kind to yourself in the busy holiday period.
I noticed a large breast lump
I found a large lump in my left breast. There were other signs too, including an inverted nipple and a change in breast shape. Because I noticed the signs, deep down I knew it was breast cancer before I was diagnosed. I was 29.
Although the cancer was found in the early stages, it had spread to the lymph nodes on my left side. I had six rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy with lymph node removal, and fifteen rounds of radiotherapy.
I was worried about my family
Even though I was expecting a breast cancer diagnosis, I felt so frightened and lost when I was diagnosed. But what I was most upset about was the pain it would cause my family.
I felt emotionally exhausted after treatment
I thought I'd feel relieved after treatment, but I felt drained. I was emotionally exhausted. New worries started to creep in, like the fear of recurrence.
I struggled to love the ‘new me’
I struggled most with the side effects of hormone therapy and the physical aftermath of surgery. Despite the fantastic care I received, my body and mind were traumatised. I struggled learning to love the ‘new me’ I'd become.
It can be difficult remembering to practise self care after breast cancer, particularly during busy times, like Christmas. As a self-confessed Christmas fanatic, here are my five top tips for being kind to yourself over the holidays.
1. Manage your expectations
I love everything about Christmas. The food, drinks, decorations and, most of all, spending quality time with loved ones. But it’s so important to be realistic about what you're able to do and manage your expectations.
While it’s never easy to say ‘no’, try to respect your ‘new normal’ and preserve your energy levels. Take a moment to question your plans – are you over committing? It’s easily done, especially if you’ve had to miss out during treatment.
2. Be open with your loved ones
If you’re feeling drained or having an off day, tell your loved ones about it. Most of the time, talking about difficult moments can be a massive relief. It’s true when they say, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’
3. Be patient
It’s tough for family and friends to watch us struggle. You may not always want to be ‘fussed over’, but sometimes it’s nice to let your loved ones take the reins.
On the other hand, if you’re the loved one or friend, be patient with us too. Trying to find our way through the fog of cancer is draining. We may not always say it, but your support makes the world of difference.
4. Be kind to yourself
Prioritise you. Your body and mind are trying to process a massive trauma, and busy times such as Christmas (and the build-up to it) can create pressure. Take those opportunities to enjoy a Christmas film snuggled up on the sofa, a hot chocolate with your friend, or soaking fruit for that epic Christmas cake! Wherever your happy place is, let yourself go there with bells on.
5. Be yourself
I’m a big Christmas fan, but not everyone is! And that’s completely fine. Be yourself and know what you want to do (and equally avoid) over Christmas. I find I'm most content when I relax and give myself permission to be me. If you love the festive season, then deck the halls. If you’re not a fan, do whatever makes you happy. Whatever you do, be yourself.
For more hints and tips for managing life after treatment, check out our free Becca app.