Collateral Damage

Everything can change in an instant. Everything. And then there is only before and after.

I had cancer. I actually had cancer. It has only recently truly dawned on me. It all feels pretty surreal actually. Most days are busy and I don’t get a chance to sit and think about it all. But when I do, my mind is flooded with a range of intolerable emotions.

I remember crying hysterically during my biopsy. I wasn’t worried about the results because I was fairly (foolishly) confident that nothing was wrong. I was just truly petrified of the core biopsy itself, I didn’t want to feel the pain. I hated the sight of the needles. I cringed every time I heard the clicking sound with each sample taken. My mind convinced my body I had something to fear. I can’t recall if the procedure was actually painful, or I just made myself believe it was. Little did I know, a few days later I would be crying tears of a different kind of fear, a fear I have never faced before.

Breast cancer. I’ve heard it referred to as “the good cancer”, probably because in some cases it’s caught early and the prognosis isn’t so bad, but honestly it causes so much silent damage that is not spoken about enough. You are not warned about the aftermath of it all. Every stage of the journey has its ups and downs, its own sense of relief as well as its own unique set of worries. The fear is always there, but it manifests differently depending on the situation. I’m not sure if it will ever really go away completely. There are many things I am extremely grateful for, but recovery from breast cancer comes with a heavy baggage of collateral damage.

Cancer isn’t an unfamiliar concept to me anymore. It’s not just a story I’ve watched in a movie. To make things worse, these movies rarely have a happy ending, so keeping a positive mindset is challenging sometimes. The fear of recurrence is always sitting at the back of my mind. With every ache I get, I find myself wondering if the cancer is back or if it may have spread. I can’t just turn off these thoughts, it’s not that easy.

There comes a point where life goes back to normal. You go back to work, start looking after your kids again, start travelling again…The world around you never stopped, and you have to catch up with it. The support that was showered upon you at the beginning of your journey also takes a rear seat. Just as you had to go back to normal life, your support crew does too. Life just has to go on. It’s a blessing to be able to go back to normal life, but it can also be overwhelming and sometimes a little lonely.

It’s never really over with breast cancer though. Every time you look into a mirror, every time you change your clothes, every time you hug your kids, every time you go shopping, every time you get a hot flash, every time you take your pills… you realise how much your life has changed. You miss the person you used to be. Growing up, you usually have something you want to change about yourself. At some stage though, you learn to love yourself for who you are. You see your flaws as beautiful. Then breast cancer comes along and resets it all.

To the world, I may look physically well, but I actually lost a part of me throughout this journey. I did literally lose a part of me in the physical sense of things, but something deep down inside me broke. I don’t even totally understand it yet. The mind has everything to do with the healing process. It’s very easy to get stuck in a downwards spiral of negativity. But I have a lot of blessings to help me push through. I hope this is all just paving the path for a brighter future.

2 responses to “Collateral Damage”

  1. I’m a fellow blogger and breast cancer survivor. (Inflammatory breast cancer stage 3)
    You have hit it on the head about collateral damage. And it’s like a web to me. Like, looking in the mirror and the how it’s not just a simple reminder that your physically different. It’s a flashback- it’s connected to intimacy with my husband and my own sense of self confidence. Hugging the kids- it’s a flashback of telling them and the worries you have for if you’ll be around and now the thoughts of how damaged are they from worrying about losing their mom? The hormone pillls and the hot flashes- I have to carry water with me everywhere cause I get dehydrated so easily since chemo. So even my water bottle holds reminders and emotions. It’s a lot. It’s ptsd. It’s sucks. And your not alone. Nice blog and keep it up. It’s therapy for other like me too, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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