Not a Warrior

64 yr old single woman. Had double mastectomy.

It’s been 2-yrs since I completed chemo.

I ‘m angry, sad, disappointed, hate my body, I gained a lot of weight, don't exercise or eat well anymore. Am fatigued all the time, depressed, on anti-depressants. Was in some support groups, but found unhelpful after chemo.

Stopped exercising, my clothes don't fit. I eat unhealthy ‘cause I deserve to after what I've been through (now going on 2 years).

What has cancer done to me? Took away my breasts, my hair, my joy, my happy retirement, my personality, my self-esteem related to body image, the probability of never having a relationship, my health, my motivation & desire to get healthy. I am still in discomfort, I hate wearing breast forms. Have considered chest tattoos.

I am not a warrior, I am not brave, I am barely a survivor. I do not give thanks for being alive every day, there is nothing positive about this experience. I learned that cancer sucks and life is harder now.

Where do I go from here?

14 Replies

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  • Thanks for your honesty. It's refreshing. From an outside perspective, it sounds to me that you are writing because you are sick of being in your funk. You put one foot forward by reaching out to this group. Now put another foot forward and do something nice for yourself today. If we are being honest, all of us have been there in one form or another. Baby steps and I'm sure you'll get the joy of life back. Best of luck!

  • Like it or not, you are still a warrior. Thank you for your bravery to admit all of this. Life after cancer is not the same as life before cancer but it is still life. I also gained weight after treatment. (About 20 pounds.) I was told my medical professionals (oncologist and nurses) that it was "impossible" to lose weight being on the aromatase inhibitor I was on that decreased my chances of recurrence. But guess what? I got on Weight Watchers and have lost 10 of those pounds in 3 months...so far. I also hate traditional exercise and gyms. But I walk a lot and do yoga, which helps my mind and my body.

    Have you ever called SHARE's helpline? I find SHARE incredibly helpful. If you're in the NYC area, they have meetings. I had never been to a support group 4 years ago when I was diagnosed but very soon SHARE's became my lifeline. Today, I help facilitate a group for women like me on AIs.

    I agree with Margo K below. Take small steps. Make tiny changes. Ask for help. It's out there. And your writing this is a huge first step.

  • How about small steps to regain yourself. I had 2 separate mastectomies. The first I walked away from proud and brave. The second threw me - I wondered if I was 'still a woman'. So I understand. Many of us do. If you start with one meeting at SHARE (or whatever city you are located in) or online via Imerman's Angels or Alis Alliance or ABCD - groups that match you with someone in similar circumstances, you can find someone specific to chat with. And you can take the small steps that my nonprofit Annie Appleseed Project, recommends for lifestyle changes. Step 1 is eat ONE more fruit and ONE more vegetable each day. (I suggest reading labels on the packaged food so you start to learn and care about what not to eat). Step 2 is taking a walk daily. It can be slow, short, easy-going but will grow over time as you feel more energy. Step 3 is taking 7 deep breaths before sleep, treatment or when stressed. Find a place or thing that brings joy. For many of us, it is green places (Central Park), or a poster of same. Some love a child's laugh. You know already what yours is.

    Anger, we all feel it, WHY did I get cancer, WHY did this happen to me. Eventually I hope you will see you are one of many. We are sisters whether we wanted to be or not. I wish you well.

  • Many women feel depressed after a diagnosis of breast cancer The trick is not to let it take over your life here is some advise that might help you get out of your slump

    From breastcancer.org

    Managing depression

    If you think you're depressed, talk to your doctor. Together you can sort out if what you're feeling is depression or extreme fatigue. You also may want to talk to an accredited psychotherapist. Therapy can help you feel supported and allow you to talk about what's bothering you. Antidepressant medicines can help ease feelings of sadness and anxiety and help you feel better.

    It's also important to find out what's causing the depression. If one of the medicines you're taking to treat breast cancer is contributing to your depression, you may be able to switch to another medication. If early menopause is contributing to your depression, medicines are available to help.

    Some complementary and holistic medicine techniques have been shown to ease anxiety, stress, fear, and depression, including:

    aromatherapy

    guided imagery

    hypnosis

    journaling

    massage

    meditation

    music therapy

    progressive muscle relaxation

    prayer

    support groups

    tai chi

    yoga

    Helping yourself when you feel depressed

    If you're depressed, you may feel exhausted, helpless, worthless, and hopeless. All of these thoughts can make you feel like giving up. It may seem hard, but don’t believe your negative thoughts and don't let these feelings get in the way of your treatment and your healthy future. If you feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts, try to:

    Set realistic goals. Don't expect to be able to do everything you did in the past.

    Break large chores into small ones and do what you can as you can.

    Try to be with other people for at least an hour a day.

    Find someone you can talk to and confide in. This can be a friend, a religious figure, or a therapist.

    Participate in activities that make you feel happy or relaxed. Going to a movie, a sporting event, playing music, painting, or volunteering to help others can take your mind off your troubles.

    Eat a healthy diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Good nutrition can bolster your immune system and make your body as healthy as it can be.

    Exercise can reduce stress and help ease depression. Try to walk for 30 minutes every day. Gardening, tai chi, or gentle yoga are other ideas. If you feel up to it, go longer or do something more strenuous.

    Remember that your mood will improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time. Don't get discouraged if you don't feel better right away. Try to find joy in whatever you achieve each day.

    You may want to postpone important decisions until your depression has lifted. Before making a decision about changing jobs, getting married or divorced, or moving to another city, talk to people who know you well and have an objective view of your situation.

    Let your family and friends help you.

    Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can make depression worse. Alcohol can also interfere with antidepressant medicine.

  • Very good advise!

  • See swee: your post is heartbreakingly open and honest, and many of us can and will relate to your story. You have been through a lot and you are grieving....women here will understand. The life you had before cancer is gone and will never be the same----but you're still here ,and you do have options that can make this " new normal" better than it feels today.

    Can you begin by taking one baby step? Can you move forward in one small way today or this week?Take a walk, find a new group or counselor, cook a nutritious meal that you well deserve? All of these steps are doable, I hope, and each could bring some joy upon which to build.

    Lastly,Have you spoken with a health professional? Is it possible you are suffering from clinical depression that might be addressed? Reaching out for help can make a world of difference. You need not suffer alone.

    Please consider calling the Share Helpline . Our volunteers will listen to your story, offer strategies if you like.....empathize with your situation. We're here so you dont have to feel empty or isolated. And we are eager to communicate and hear what you have to say.

  • Dear See Swee, Despite my cheerful user name, I've been in your shoes many days, struggling to appreciate my survival. I found Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun who's written several books, including "Start Where You Are" and "When Things Fall Apart," helpful on many black mornings.

  • Another good book is Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Siegel. You can listen to an interview with him here:

  • I second what others have said about appreciating your openness and honesty! I suspect that most of us have thoughts and feelings like you express and I certainly have had days when I feel like crap and don't want to leave the house. I want to start by commenting on your "Not a Warrior" line. I hate the fight/warrior/battle imagines of living with cancer and being in cancer treatment. There are a couple of reasons I don't like those metaphors. First, it's a huge waste of energy to be in direct opposition to anything. I like to think instead of what we're all told, if we live near the ocean, about being caught in an undertow. Rather than trying to swim against it, we are to swim at an angle so we have more energy plus a much better chance of reaching the shore. The other thing that makes me uncomfortable with the warrior imagines is that that ultimately equates death and defeat, and as a person of faith, I do not look at death as defeat but as transition. I like what others have said here about taking small steps. I also try to find whatever humor I can in my situation. Sometime it is very dark humor! Yesterday I had lunch with one of our grown daughters at a Chinese buffet. My fortune cookie had no slip with my fortune in it--that gave me the giggles, geez, the lady with cancer has no future! Now not anybody would think that is funny, but the absurdity of it and the laughter brightened my day and I was able to have more fun thinking about fortunes I could have found!

    About the reaction of possible future romantic interest people--if they are not interested in you because of you having had cancer and losing your breasts, they are not deserving of you and you are lucky to find that out before getting any more attached to them! Seriously! The good men that I know, my husband, his friends, my brother, his friends, and men who have been work colleagues, would never be that shallow! A partner should love you, the person, your spirit, your soul, your values, your personality and sense of humor.

    I also like what others have said about baby steps! I've gained weight, too, and with aging and meds, it is hard to lose weight. If I think about all the pounds I want to lose, it feels like too much. But if I think of one thing I can do today to eat healthier food, I can do that!

    Hang in there.

    Sending cyberhugs and healing thoughts, Pam

  • PJBinMI- Thank you so very much for your sincere reply. I agree with you about the metaphors of Warrior, Brave, Heroic--They do have this sort of battle-theme. I don't think of cancer or any illness for that matter, a battle. It's a disease. I feel more like I have been caught in an undertow. I just have to find the right path to the shore.

  • So sad to read your comments! Yes, cancer and every illness is horrible! But it sounds like u gave up trying to make yourself feel and go better which is even sadder than your illness. If u need to see a psychologist do do and perhaps an anti depressant or anxiety medication can help u to feel better and help u get motivated to take better care of yourself. U r complicating your own situation!! Stop this self destructive attitude and help yourself!!

  • Wow. Lots of great comments! I agree with you all. It's not even one day at a time- it's more like one minute at a time. I had to be my own best advocate. Sending reiki and loving kindness your way.

  • Saying it like it feels like - a phony you are not. That means you are strong- and from your strength- cause you definitely have that- some good will arise- you may be surprised when it does as the view you see now is negative but what goes down must come up- and up may look different but it will be okay.

  • My thoughts are the same.I get mad .Every morning when i get out of bed i feel the stretching from my mastectomy 6 weeks ago ,it reminds me yeah it didn't go away.

    What has helped me ? I am blessed with 4 loving grandchildren who make every day worth

    living.I also have a cat that has stayed by my side through all this.The discomfort will get better with time. Sending you well wishes.

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