Four years on from her diagnosis, Susan reflects on how difficult moving on from breast cancer treatment truly is.
Nobody wanted to hear about cancer
As soon as my hair grew back and I looked like myself again, people assumed I’d moved on from breast cancer. They certainly had, and they didn’t want to hear me mention it again.
It seemed to them that I was ‘fine now’, I ‘look good’, and I ‘should not look to the past’. I’ve had comments that 'continuing to go on about cancer in your blogs is not healthy’, and I ‘really should move on’.
I find writing about cancer very therapeutic and if it helps others at the start of their journey then that’s all I can hope for. I even wrote a book about my experiences called Beyond the Pink, where I document how people changed towards me after my diagnosis and my treatment experiences.
Cancer isn’t a scream but a whisper
I find it infuriating that people assume that we can just move on from a cancer diagnosis.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve moved on that I have a new job as a Pilates instructor and I don’t sit at home thinking about cancer all day. But I do still think about cancer every day.
Cancer isn’t a scream in my ear but a whisper. The fear is always there, and every pain and cough makes me fear the worst.
What if it comes back?
After all, the worst already happened, so no one can tell me that it’s all in my mind if I worry about a pain or an ache.
I still feel anxious about it
I explained it once being like the dementors in Harry Potter floating around my head, making me feel panicky and scared while no one else can see them. They are forever hovering like a dark cloud, waiting for their chance to invade. At least that’s how I feel about cancer.
I go for check-ups every couple of months and I get scan anxiety. Until they tell me everything is clear I’m practically holding my breath fearing the worst. When I get the all clear I feel lightheaded and elated, but a couple of days later the thoughts come back again.
I manage the fear, but I don’t forget about cancer. It’s not like having a broken leg – a little rehabilitation and then forget it happened. Cancer isn’t something you can forget as people seem to assume.
When you are diagnosed with cancer it’s the worst thing that can happen. You change forever and I find it hurtful that people would expect such a traumatic experience to become something distant in your mind.
I want to talk about it
Everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer – no matter how long ago – remembers that moment like a punch in the stomach. It’s not something we can forget.
I have moved on with my life. I would say I’m living a more positive, less stressful life – but I do still think about breast cancer.
I would like the ability to express my fear and to also talk about my experiences without the eye rolls and the looking away pretending not to hear what I’m saying.
It's common to feel anxious after treatment, especially if you're waiting for a mammogram or other appointment. We can offer support.