Lucy discusses the difficult emotions she felt after her breast cancer diagnosis and how she manages them since she finished hospital treatment.
I had no idea what I was facing
We all experience difficult emotions every day. We feel stressed, sad or low – but when you are hit with a breast cancer diagnosis, all emotions apply.
A large fog surrounds you and you think there is no way to see past it. Even when the fog starts to lift, it still affects the way you think and how you perceive things.
To this day, my diagnosis is still a blur. What I do remember are the words my breast surgeon said to me: ‘I’m sorry Lucy, it’s cancer.’
I was 28, I had only been married a year and I was being told that my life as I knew it would never be the same. I had no idea what I was facing when I stepped into my surgeon's office. To this day I am still shocked at how naïve I was.
I worried about my daughter
The first thing I said was, ‘I have a young daughter.’ She was four at the time and all I could think about was her.
I lost both of my parents when I was a teenager within nine days of one another. I know what it’s like to lose a parent and I didn’t want that for my daughter.
Along with my husband and my family and friends, she would see me at my worst. No child should see their parent suffering.
I was so worried about what my daughter would think of her mummy having no hair. To my surprise she took it in her stride and would often be very protective of me if people were staring.
After chemotherapy, I had a mastectomy on my left breast and lymph node removal. It took me a couple of days to look in the mirror after surgery, but I soon realised that it would all be worth it. Who cares if I was one breast down? I was surviving.
The fog started to lift
After 16 rounds of radiotherapy, I got the final nod from my oncologist that my treatment was over. I could start to rebuild my life again.
The fog had started to lift, and I could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. My family and friends were amazing all the way through. I went through treatment, but they had to watch me do it and push me to keep going, even when I was a sweaty mess on the sofa.
When you think of someone facing cancer, you think of hair loss, exhaustion and sickness. But you might not realise the emotional turmoil that someone with cancer faces every day.
How I manage my emotions
An emotion I constantly felt during my treatment was jealousy. I would see people living their lives as normal. They were healthy, planning holidays and the next exciting stage of their lives. I was left fighting for my life wondering if I would see my daughter grow up.
I was jealous of people with long hair, missing how my hair was before chemotherapy. I eventually learnt to manage my feelings by planning hair styles and finding inspiration on Pinterest for when my hair started to come back.
I felt angry. I was fed up and annoyed that I had been diagnosed. I was angry with myself more than anything because my body had failed me. I was distraught that I couldn’t be the mummy that my daughter deserved.
After a month or so, I learnt to channel my anger into positivity.
If all else fails, I'd say scream into a pillow or invest in a punchbag!
Let’s have a good emotion. Hope. Without hope, we would never see the good in all that is bad. When you are facing cancer, sometimes you have nothing but hope. I was constantly hoping that chemotherapy would work, hoping I would not look too much like a boiled egg and hoping that my loved ones wouldn’t be too affected.
Hope keeps us from sinking deeper, it gives us that lift to ensure we keep going.
The emotion I can relate to the most is feeling overwhelmed. The pressure of dealing with cancer can be enough to cause a meltdown. The constant appointments are exhausting. I feel overwhelmed at work because of what I’ve been through. A simple thought will come into my head while I’m working, and the memories will flood back.
My Macmillan nurse gave me a coping mechanism. When a bad thought enters my head, I think about it for a few minutes. I think of every scenario possible and go through all emotions from that one thought. I then put it in an imaginary box, lock it, and forget about it.
I believe fear played the main role throughout my entire cancer treatment. I feared for my life and for my loved ones while going through it. Now, I fear the what-ifs.
The fear that my cancer will come back is always at the forefront of my mind. I take each day as it comes and keep living my life how I want to. Even when I have a terrible day, I’m grateful I’m here to experience it. I will never let fear define my own fate.
We associate grief with the loss of a loved one, but we don’t think about it relating to the loss of a routine or an attachment to something.
I grieved for the eight months I went through treatment. I found it incredibly hard leaving the support of my doctors, nurses and the constant hospital appointments. It took a long time to come to terms with the fact that my life was beginning to look normal again.
Emotions show that we’re human
My advice to anyone facing breast cancer is that our emotions are there to show that we care. Without our emotions, we would not be human.
Cancer will alter your life and change your perspective forever. For me, positivity has kept my head above water throughout my diagnosis, and it’s kept my mind strong. In turn, it’ll help me heal.
A version of this article was originally published on Lucy’s website, Life or just Lucyisms.
A breast cancer diagnosis can affect your emotions. We can offer support on coping emotionally.