Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be over, but the fight against the disease continues. In honor of those impacted, we’re sharing the story of one of our own community. Diagnosed in 2005, Joanne went into research mode. She found lots of information about breast cancer on the Internet, but she wasn’t able to find what she wanted most—stories to give her hope. In this final piece of her three-part series, Joanne shares what gave her hope then and inspires her still. Click to read part one and part two.
Being ready when the help ends
One of the things you have to be conscious of, Joanne says, is that you can feel emotionally really good during the process because you’re so cared for and get so much attention. But you should be careful because once you’re done with treatment, the cards stop coming, the flowers stop coming, and people go on with their lives. And that’s when you can start to feel alone.
Having resources lined up for that eventuality—in Joanne’s case, continuing therapy with the psychiatrist—can get you over that hump. And Joanne found hope in setting milestones: she gave herself time to grieve all she’d been through and set a deadline for when that grief would end and she’d get on with the life ahead. She didn’t meet that deadline, but just having it was a way of setting limits and taking back control.
Finding hope step 4: reclaiming your life
“I think I went into a state of depression when it was over. I had been so goal-focused during the treatment, following the steps to get though the process, keeping to the timeline….and then you get there. And it’s done, it’s over, and you’re like….OK….now what? You get on with life. And in time, I did.”
For many years after, Joanne didn’t share her story much, didn’t participate in breast cancer awareness events, though she appreciates those who do. “We all have things that happen to us, and I couldn’t understand why my story would be of interest to anyone. I struggled even with deciding to be featured on the g-spot. But I realized in my own research that there just aren’t good, positive stories out there, not of dealing with the process, and not of life post-cancer treatment. It was a craving, like for food or alcohol: just give me the good stories, give me some hope! But those stories just don’t exist.
“My hypothesis is you don’t hear of the positive stories because those women—and men—have moved on with their lives. They aren’t dwelling on the negatives, they’re seeing the future and what they have to live for, how wonderful life can be.”
There’s plenty of reason for hope and there are lots of positive stories—which is why Joanne ultimately agreed to share her story with us.
“It doesn’t have to be a death sentence. There is life after cancer.
“At some point during the cancer treatment process, someone, I don’t recall who, shared with me a phrase which has come to define how I view and pursue all challenges I’ve faced since that time.
“’Change the fear of the unknown to the excitement of the yet undiscovered.’ Doesn’t that sound so full of hope for the future? It’s such a simple phrase, but when you think about it, fear controls so many of our actions and emotions and prevents us from really living life. Embracing this phrase enabled me to move forward with big life decisions which I otherwise would have shied away from. I don’t know who said it; I wish I did.
“I’ve talked with friends going through the same experience, and I think I can offer them some of the hope I was looking for. I’ve been where they are, and now I’m in a good, healthy, happy place with a great, meaningful life still ahead of me, with plenty of excitement about the yet undiscovered still to come. And they can get there too.”