That is the phrase for the phase I’m now in. It took a long time to let that phrase sink in and even longer to allow it to be applied to me. I went through treatment like I go through anything difficult: laser-focused on completion, hyper-diligent of details, emotional but trying my absolute best. At the end, I assumed I would pick back up my crown and move forward unscathed. I always considered myself resilient.
My medical team didn’t mention when I finished treatment that my life wouldn’t ever look like what it did before. Why would they? It would have been too depressing and I wouldn’t have believed them. The shock of it even happening made visualizing a new life incomprehensible back then.
A year went by. I still didn’t feel okay. Crying uncontrollably, drinking too much, staying in bed for days…I needed to make changes and fast.
In October, I decided to metaphorically #konmari my life. I began removing things that didn’t spark joy, even precious things like my relationship. New year came and still I didn’t feel enough progress had been made. The nagging sensation of faking happiness led to emotional outbursts and then waves of shame and grief. My mental health was in serious trouble. I decided to finally reach out to an organization equipped to guide me through this troubling and unexpected phase, the Breast Cancer Resource Center.
What’s important to note here is that I have been incredibly supported throughout my cancer journey. My friends and family were there for me comprehensibly. But, when treatment was over, it seemed hard for my support system to understand my continued pain and hard for me to articulate why I still felt pain. For all of us, the words just weren’t there.
I told my navigator at the BCRC that I should have reached out sooner. She disagreed. She understood that I just wasn’t ready and she insisted that reaching out at all takes a lot of courage. She set me up with all kinds of resources that I could explore, specifically for women in the phase after active treatment (i.e. the rest of my life). To the BCRC, that phase is a real thing. They had the words that I lacked.
I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned about survivorship and how I’m crafting my new normal with help from the BCRC. I’d also like to ask that you help make sure the next girl, at whatever point she needs it, gets access to BCRC services. Please help me pay it forward by making a gift to BCRC. I’m participating in their Art Bra event (more on that later). With my whole heart, I believe this organization deserves our support.