During a recent #BCSM twitter chat, the topic was the invisible scars breast cancer leaves behind. It was one of those chats when the tweets were really flying because; well, there are a lot of scars left behind. And of course, some of them are not physical scars at all, but rather are deeply embedded emotional ones.
Even if there are similarities in the kinds of scars many of us share, each woman’s scars are still uniquely hers. We are all unique beings and each of us is uniquely impacted by her cancer experience.
I have thought about those words many times since I read Jody’s comment. They ring so true and the recent chat made me realize that they ring true for many others as well. This was comforting to know, or rather to reaffirm. This is one of the great benefits of social media and venues such as Twitter chats. You realize you truly are never alone.
Back to those scars…
There are a lot of losses that can and do happen after a breast cancer diagnosis. There is the obvious one such as the loss of breasts (or parts of them). Sometimes ovaries, uteri, hair, eyelashes and brows are sacrificed as well. Some of these losses leave lasting physical scars and others fade or self-correct, at least to some extent, over time.
Then there are the less obvious losses (to others anyway) such as loss of fertility, cognitive skills, physical strength, stamina, range of motion, sleep, bone health, femininity perception and sense of independence and general well-being. And let’s not forget job losses, relationship losses, intimacy losses and financial losses.
And with this list, I’m only scratching the surface. But no doubt about it, these losses leave very real scars.
Cancer takes a toll.
And of course for some there was, or will be the ultimate loss…
Yes, cancer is a string of losses.
In fact, there can be more than one “string” because the loved ones of a person diagnosed with cancer often have losses of their own.
While the actual physical scars left behind due to treatment can be painful and dauntingly difficult to deal with, sometimes the emotional scars run far deeper and heal more slowly, if at all.
One comment in particular that kept popping up during the chat was that the cancer experience doesn’t just end one day when you walk out the door of your cancer treatment center.
As Jody stated (again, quite wisely) during this particular chat:
|Cancer isn’t a before and after event. It’s part of the continuum that is your life. #bcsm|
Such a simple and yet profound statement, at least to me.
After a cancer diagnosis, we carry on. We adapt. We persevere. We live. We regain what we can and do what we are able – in spite of the scars.
Part of this adapting and adjusting should include allowing ourselves to admit to ourselves and to state out loud the things we have lost and the things we miss. Grief and cancer go hand-in-hand. And I’m not even talking about the grief that comes from losing dear ones.
There should never be shame in talking about our losses.
And doing so does not mean we are negative thinkers, filled with self-pity or are unable to move forward.
No, doing so is an essential part of emotional healing.
Just as we should never be afraid to speak about the physical scars that breast cancer leaves behind on our bodies, we should also never be afraid to speak about the invisible ones left behind on our minds and psyches as well.
What invisible scars do you have as result of your (or a loved one’s) cancer diagnosis?
Is it harder for you to acknowledge and talk about your invisible scars or your physical ones?