Learning to live with Fear: Life after Cancer

One year has passed since my breast cancer diagnosis and it’s been six months since my treatment finished. I was warned about Life After Cancer.

Life after Cancer

Depression. Emptiness. Living in fear.

Since the day I was diagnosed, my life changed forever. Suddenly my whole world was tipped upside down. Everything I had, my whole life and the life of my family, was under threat.

Fear set in quickly. With the love and support of my family, friends and amazing medical team, fear turned to determination.

Learning to live with Fear - lovefrommim.com Love from Mim Triple Negative Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Breast Cancer, Living in Fear, Living with Fear, Depression, Mental Health, Cancer Treatment, Cancer, Life after Cancer, How to live after cancer, life after a Breast Cancer diagnosis, Dealing with breast cancer

I was determined to beat cancer. To complete my treatment. It wasn’t easy. In fact chemotherapy was, without a doubt, the worst period of my entire life. I felt alone, confused and so very unwell.

After Treatment

Six months on from that, I feel like a different person. I have more clarity, health and I’m making plans for the future. For a long time after my diagnosis, I wouldn’t have dared to plan for more than the following week.

That’s what the diagnosis felt like to me, like I might die on the spot. Like I might not make another week. Which I suppose is why they tell you to take it one day at a time. My word, that’s good and strong advice that I wouldn’t never utter lightly again. It’s hard to do sometimes but it does work.

On the flip side, every good appointment I had and every positive scan and test result that came back was amazing. It was like being given my life back to me as a great gift. So whilst I dreaded, and still dread, some of my medical appointments, I knew how wonderfully positive I would feel when the results came back as good.

Another chance. A bit more time.

But what about the depression, the emptiness and living in fear? Would that be forever? Would I live with fear forever?

I don’t know if I’ve been depressed but I think I have. What I mean is, I have certainly felt depressed many times but I have never been diagnosed.

The emptiness was something I was strongly warned about from my medical team. After months and months of daily, weekly and monthly appointments and all eyes on me, suddenly, I would be left alone.

My appointments are now just every six months.

This hasn’t concerned me too much. In fact I’ve used the time I had spent in hospitals before to plough into my business. It’s given me a focus, something to keep getting up for. As well as my beautiful family – which I think does go without saying.

But I Live with Fear

I’m absolutely petrified.

I’ve never been more scared of anything in my life.

I have visions of being told that the cancer has come back. I have visions of me writing the blog post to tell you that the cancer has come back. They don’t feel like premonitions. It’s my mind wandering I suppose.

I think about cancer every single day. It feels like every second of every day.

There are times when I almost forget but then bad news comes in. I hear of a new diagnosis, or a cancer has returned, or someone has passed away.

In 2016, Facebook was a bloody nightmare for me to be on. Everyone seemed to be joking about the spate of celebrity deaths. How tragic it was that so many greats were passing away in the same year. Wasn’t 2016 a horrible year.

Did you notice that the majority of those celebrities unfortunately died of cancer? It broke my heart for them and their families. It broke my heart too to see the way the press, and my friends, debated it. Insensitively at times.

Would I be joining the doomed 2016 list?

And it compounded my fear. Because when you have cancer, it’s everywhere. Even on Facebook.

Every time I walk into my doctor’s office, I remember sitting while I received my diagnosis and what went through my head.

Songs that come on the radio take me back to the dark days. I’ll probably always associate some of my favourite songs with those times.

It’s early days, I know. I know it will get easier.

In time, I expect that some of the fear will subside. I hope that as every six monthly appointment comes around and the news is good, I grow more and more positive.

For now, I can’t pick up and move on with my life in the way I want to. But I do know the fear is rational though. I’m not beating myself up about it.

So whilst I keep busy and positive and try to take my mind away from the fear, I won’t try and ignore it. I need to learn to live with fear. To live with it. Not to live in fear. It’s different.

The logical person in me knows that I have every right to be scared. But the optimistic me wants me to continue to live regardless of it and to try not to let it limit me.

So I accept that I will live with fear for a long time to come. But when the moment passes, I can get up and keep going.

For now, I’ll keep enjoying time with my family and I’ll keep busy with work because that’s working for me.

Thank you for reading this and for your continued support. It really does mean so much to me.

Read next:

Do you live with fear? How do you manage it?

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18 Comments

  1. 13th January 2017 / 8:00 pm

    I’m afraid I don’t have any words of wisdom, just wanted to give you a virtual hug and say hello. x

    • 16th January 2017 / 11:16 am

      Oh thank you so so much Kate! x x

  2. 13th January 2017 / 7:02 am

    After two cancer diagnoses in six months I had “the fear” too. I sought help from a psychotherapist and while it didn’t magically erase my fear, it helped me manage it so much better. The way I see it, every day is a gift and I want to make the most of it. I consider my cancer to be a wake up call, to live the best life I can and be the the best person I can be, and know that I’m going to get a thorough going over every 6 months (or a year.) A few years after my diagnosis my husband had a (thankfully mild) stroke, and I learned that your life can change in 20 seconds flat. As the great Peter Harvey said “I’m not going to let the fears and worries about tomorrow ruin my today.” Words to live by indeed. Enjoy the day!

    • 13th January 2017 / 10:08 am

      Gosh I can imagine Sammie and I love your thinking of every day being a gift – you’re so so right about that x I love that quote too! Thank you x

  3. 13th January 2017 / 2:33 am

    Oh sweetheart. You’re so incredibly brave and completely entitled to live in fear. Im sure i would. I live in fear of irrational possibilities and have had nothing like your experiences and another difference is that of course yours is very rational.

    Do what works for you and focus on one day at a time.

    Lots of love xx

    • 13th January 2017 / 10:06 am

      Thank you so so much lovely x x

  4. 13th January 2017 / 2:32 am

    Sweetie, it is normal and to be expected that you will feel this way and if it helps, since kids I’ve worried about my mortality a lot too, lots of us do, we just don’t verbalise it enough. I wrote a post not that long ago on kids making me worry. Have you considered counselling? I saw a great therapist after Oliver who helped me hugely through the trauma of my birth, gave me real ways to deal with worry, and I saw him again recently after an awful year last year with a sick relative. It was amazing to chat to him and work through all sorts of things. He recommend Headspace App and I’ve also changed my diet, started excising more, basically working on self care and feel so much better. I would also focus on all the positive stories, my parents have friends who beat cancer and it never returned and there are so many success stories as with yourself. I worked and wrote for the Guardian at uni and I’ll never forget one of the editors there (editor in the north at the time) tell me that the news is the extraordinary. Really stayed with me. I would make lots of fun plans with people you love too to get all thoe endorphins released, sort a holiday and schedule in lots of times with those who make you happy. Sending love x

    • 13th January 2017 / 10:01 am

      Ah that’s so right about the news being extraordinary – I do need to remember that :) And yes, I have had counselling and I’m a bit advocate for it – it has really worked with me when I’ve needed it. Thank you so so much lovely x x x

  5. 13th January 2017 / 12:42 am

    I think it’s natural to have that fear, but don’t let it beat you, you have beaten cancer. You’re incredibly inspiring. X

    • 13th January 2017 / 9:39 am

      Thank you so so much Kat – I definitely won’t let fear get me x x

  6. 13th January 2017 / 12:34 am

    I know I don’t have anywhere close to the right words because I don’t live in your shoes lovely Mim. But, I think about you a lot, about how strong you are and how much I hope you get to live the most amazing life with your family. Be very kind to yourself sweetie and if I’m ever over your side of the world I’m coming to give you a hug xx

    • 13th January 2017 / 9:38 am

      Oh you’re so lovely Hannah, thank you! And I will definitely get that hug one day x x

  7. 13th January 2017 / 12:13 am

    This resonates with me so much and I truly feel all the feels with you Mim.
    I live with fear from 3 different cancer diagnoses in 4 years and a genetic disease with unknown manifestations.
    I never let it stop me. I don’t care what people think and I try to live a life filled with blessings and fun.
    My biggest fear is leaving my children , in truth.
    I volunteer with Cancer council and though it ‘fears’ me I’m an advocate for their Palliative care campaign in my local area in NSW.
    So I manage it by doing what I can to help alleviate another’s suffering now and in the future. I fundraise for my genetic disease and I try to spread awareness of all 3-4 things. Breast Cancer, Sarcoma, Melanoma and Neurofibromatosis.
    I also Dragon boat race with other breast cancer survivors where I live. I was fortunate to travel to China with some 15 beautiful amazing women from East Coast too , one with stage IV and on treatment but still she paddled and laughed her heart out. We rocked the dragon boat. My local BC friends and team supporters are a priceless currency too.
    It all gives me hope – still it is important for those of us who feel unprotected or worry that the cancer might return to ask our oncologists about survivorship programs , life after cancer and maybe medication.
    FEAR – it is there but I remember everyday I am alive today, to feel all the awful and awesome and mess and magic that life is.

    • 13th January 2017 / 9:37 am

      Trish you completely get this and thank you so much for your comment. I think the work you are doing is just amazing and such a valuable help to others – even when it’s a challenge for you which I imagine it sometimes might be. I completely agree about the fear of leaving children – it’s my biggest fear too. It’s unimaginable but it’s the one that gets me the most. Thank you so so much for your support x x

  8. 13th January 2017 / 12:03 am

    Oh my love, how do I begin to write something that won’t sound inadequate? It makes me so sad that despite having won the biggest battle of your life to date you are still living with the consequences. For those of us who have never had to go through your ordeal it’s easy to celebrate that win and assume you can close the chapter. I’m so sorry that’s far from the case – what a wicked legacy to be left with after such an incredibly brave and dignified fight.

    However, YOU HAVE BEATEN CANCER. And having done that, I have no doubt in my mind that you WILL beat this too.

    I’m sure this post will bring comfort to many experiencing the same difficult feelings, and I’m sure that in time you will reach the same point Adrienne has. In the meantime you must be kind to yourself. You are living with a form of PTSD I guess, and that’s a very real issue.

    I’m glad you have your blog to share through since I had no idea you were feeling this way. I hope writing is cathartic for you. And you can rest assured that there are many, many people rooting for you and ready to offer any support we can.

    You have so much to live for, and that’s a pretty wonderful place to start from. Xxxx

    • 13th January 2017 / 9:35 am

      Oh thank you beautiful Kate and you could never say anything inadequate at all :) I do understand what you mean though. Yes writing is so so cathartic for me, it helps me in a million ways. Thank you lovely x x

  9. adrienne harries
    12th January 2017 / 9:19 pm

    Do you live with fear? No – i decided not to be victim or cancer survive I am just me with a different story. i live more fully that i did taking each day as a blessing. I made it through – i wont dwell – i have a family, a home a job, i travel, i love music and chocolate etc etc etc these are my focuses. Not taking away anyone else’s story BUT for me cancer was a word not a sentence …. it made me a better person and made me less worried, i choose life and happiness and not to worry about what could happen – i guess my analogy is If i worried about what could happen i’d never drive a car, walk on the road, eat fatty food, bungy jump – cause i could have a crash – hit by a bus – have a heart attack or break the bungy. Also my family will not let me wallow in self pity. Sometimes i think we wear our war wounds like a badge and to me instead its just part of my journey. i hope you can find some peace too

    • 12th January 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Oh Adrienne I absolutely love your outlook and I’m striving for it too :) I do not want to be overwhelmed by fear in any way. I feel like it will be in the back of my mind for now and hopefully soon enough I’ll have the confidence to let go x

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