Life after breast cancer

Remission is a time of relief but psychological distress for women who have suffered from breast cancer. Torn between the joy of seeing the glimmer of hope of a sure cure and the fear of an unexpected recurrence, these women find it difficult to believe in a better tomorrow. The presence of family and friends is very useful to support them during this period of convalescence. Psychological support is essential. There is indeed a life after breast cancer.

The post-treatment phase involves a transition and adaptation phase. It is normal for these women to feel uncomfortable emotionally. They will need patience to accept and take the time to understand what they have been through so they can let the dust settle.

Emotional turbulences

They are often subject to feelings like:

  • Worry and fear of cancer coming back.
  • Experiencing anger for different reasons and situations related to the illness and treatment.
  • Having to mourn the loss of what they have lost for those who had to undergo a mastectomy against their will. They continually experience the trauma by seeing the scars of the operation.

Anxiety and depression

After an experience with breast cancer care, living with the fear of recurrence is a reality for many people. This fear is completely normal and understandable. It should diminish over time.

Some events may trigger this fear, such as follow-up visits, the onset of pain, "anniversary" dates such as diagnosis or surgery or learning that a loved one has cancer, etc. 

Readjusting

The effects of breast cancer are not limited to the physical. Likewise, treatment does not only affect the patient's physical abilities. It also affects her intellectual, emotional and psychological abilities. Seeing these faculties diminish in spite of the cure can be disturbing and that is why help is needed to allow patients to quickly get back to a better shape.

Beyond this aspect, rehabilitation includes adaptation to one's new body. A lot of women in remission are often afraid to go out in the street without their hair that has fallen out due to chemotherapy. The same is true for clothing, which may seem inappropriate in mastectomy cases. Most women in remission are so afraid of how others will look at them that they are forced to wear makeup. All of these adornments hide deep pain.

A perfect rehabilitation involves a review of eating habits and hygiene.

There are several professionals who can help patients in remission to resume with a normal life. These include :

  • Psychologist: to be accompanied because the scars are physical and psychological,
  • Nutritionist: to relearn good nutrition habits and gradually regain strength

Physiotherapist or physiotherapist: to re-educate the body and learn to love it again to feel good about yourself.

  • Rehabilitation nurse: just like the psychologist, she becomes a travel friend on the road to remission.
  • Social worker: for easy readmission to the patient's professional duties and obligations,
  • Spiritual care provider : it can be a priest, a nun, a monk, an alpha; for a spiritual follow-up of the patients

- Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor: for those who decide to change careers.

Accepting yourself

The breasts are that part of the body that has always represented and embodied femininity. Undergoing a mastectomy or other breast cancer treatments can alter the body and the image that one has of it. Whether it is because of the removal of a breast, hair loss from chemotherapy, weight gain or loss, decreased energy levels or decreased libido, it is very likely that the patient's self-confidence will drop and she will simply not be able to accept the physical changes imposed by the disease.

To survive this complicated phase of remission, it becomes essential to tame their new body, to live with the look of others. The feeling of guilty that becomes more and more recurrent. Acceptance will take time and will be done in several stages. Beginning with the courage to accept talking to others, to accept seeing a psychologist, to accept being part of a support group. And finally, accepting oneself as a full human being despite the very visible after-effects. Accepting to look at yourself in the mirror is already a good start. Accepting to go to a esthetician, to a hairdresser to make yourself beautiful. Consider having a breast done. This can be reconstructive surgery or a prosthesis.  This period of acceptance requires the support of loved ones. It will take time and a lot of patience. Many women are able to do this and eventually look forward to a more fulfilling life away from situations that could cause them to fall back into depression.

Our words for THEM, our words for you

We say COURAGE to all these women who live this situation.

It's hard, we understand that. Give yourself time to live your emotions.

You're beautiful!

You're strong!

You are alive so live your best life,

Enjoy every moment because being alive is already a great gift from the universe.

We say BIG THANKS to all those people who are accompanying them on the road to physical, emotional and psychological healing.  We count on you to continue to fight alongside them.

By Mélika Tchiakpe & Jolyane Rodriguez