#BreastCanceAwarenessMonth might be over, but it never ends for some of us #cancer #advocacy #breastcancer #cancersucks #mastectomy #DIEPflapsurgery #breastreconstruction

Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be over, but it never ends for some of us

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come and gone again (whew!), but it is never over for those who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer because breast cancer is never over. That is just a fact.

Once you’ve heard the words, you have cancer, you can’t unhear them.

If only turning off cancer thoughts were as easy as flipping a page on the calendar.

I’m now ten years out from my cancer diagnosis. Yep. Ten years out and no, it is not over. Not even close. Dear Hubby would probably cringe if he read that, but deep down, he would agree.

(As he often says, he doesn’t need to read my blog; he lives it.)

Wanting something to be over does not make it so.

I’m pretty sure lots of people, probably most, are super glad BCAM is finally over. Pink ribbon fatigue is real. People are sick of Pinktober for differing reasons, and I would wager that most are just plain relieved to get it over with.

That in itself says quite a lot, don’t you think?

One reason I don’t get overly riled up, annoyed, outraged, impatient or whatever about BCAM is because it really doesn’t matter what month it is.

Once a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, every month is BCAM for them.

We are so aware 365 days a year, or at least I am.

This is not to say I think about breast cancer all the time. I don’t.

But do I think about it a lot?

You bet I do. Every. Single. Day.

In saying this, I don’t look for pity or anything else. I don’t know one single Cancer Haver who is interested in that sort of thing.

No, Cancer Havers want people to better understand what it means to carry on after you hear the dreaded words, you have cancer. They want others to realize that the cancer experience doesn’t end, even if active treatment ends. No one comes out unscathed. There is likely baggage and plenty of it.

You might want to read, Breast Cancer Treatment’s Collateral Damage, Let’s Talk About It.

Is it even possible for others to understand all this?

I say, yes.

Some say that unless you’re experiencing something first hand, you can’t grasp what it’s really like.

I don’t agree with that. Not entirely anyway. I think that line of thinking puts up walls.

You might want to read, Walls We Build In Cancer Land.

If I thought that no one other than those who’ve been diagnosed with cancer could understand this stuff, I’m not sure I’d still be blogging.

I am always trying to reach other Cancer Havers, of course. Sharing my experience hopefully helps someone else with hers/his. But I am also always hoping to reach everyone else. The Non Havers.

But back to why BCAM is never over for some of us.

Even after ten years post diagnosis, I’m still dealing with cancer crap fallout. (Yes, I know I’m lucky to still be here to able to deal with said fallout.)

But the point is, there is still fallout crap to deal with even ten year out.

For example, at three months post DIEP flap surgery, I am still healing. I am still trying to figure out and accept this body that’s been put through the wringer. AGAIN.

When looking in the mirror unclothed, it takes considerable self-compassion. To be honest, I’d often prefer wearing a blindfold or just not looking at all. Self-acceptance is never easy. Post mastectomy, with or without reconstruction, it’s even harder.

I was fortunate to have an “easy” recovery from my recent surgery, but “easy” is relative, right?

No pain does not equal easy. Easier perhaps, but not easy.

None of this shit is easy. No, it’s damn hard.

And I will just say right here, while I’m glad there are reconstruction options (including flat closure) available for women (and men) who undergo breast amputations, the options ALL still suck.

(That felt good to say. More on that later.)

To date, I’ve had seven cancer-related surgeries. Nothing about any of them was easy. Or pretty. Or pink. Or party-like. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Having four drains hanging out of you collecting shit is not pretty. It’s not pink. (Well, in this case, I guess it was pink. Or pinkish.) Drains are not something you see, hear or read about during BCAM. Or anytime for that matter.

No one wants to see, hear or read about that. Drains don’t fit in well with that Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale I told you about earlier.

I’m not one to show photos of my reconstructed chest or other scars here or on social media, but trust me, I’ve got some scars that are doozies.

And then, there are the emotional scars that never fully heal.

Just because no one see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

You might want to read, The Scars We Cannot See.

So, if someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer or any cancer, don’t assume it’s all behind her/him, regardless of stage at diagnosis.

More than likely it is not. And your continuing support would probably still be appreciated.

In fact, I have a feeling that for those living with any sort of intense physical or emotional scars, whatever caused those scars is likely never over. Not completely anyway.

So again, Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be over, but it never ends for some of us.

No matter what month it is.

Cancer Havers phrase credit goes to Sylvie Leotin.

Thank you for sharing this post!

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If applicable, do those around you assume you’re done with cancer?

If you were diagnosed at an early stage, do you still think about cancer every day?

What sort of cancer baggage do you “carry around”?

Any thoughts to share about BCAM 2020?

#BreastCanceAwarenessMonth might be over, but it never ends for some of us #cancer #advocacy #breastcancer #cancersucks #mastectomy #DIEPflapsurgery #breastreconstruction

18 thoughts to “Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be over, but it never ends for some of us”

  1. I’m always glad to see the end of Pinktober, although may I say that this yr it really didn’t seem as bad to me. That could be because of the concentration on covid and the election, but I’m still glad it’s over. I was diagnosed on Oct 26, 2016. More reason to dislike Oct. I recently had what I hope will be my final surgery, the removal of my implants. Although my scars are worse than ever, I finally feel like me and I don’t feel those phony uncomfortable implants inside me anymore. I’m thoroughly enjoying my padded sports bras. But does the thought of cancer creep into my thoughts more than I wish? Of course it does! I’ve had a horrible backache for 3 weeks. I had an xray and still don’t have the results. Do I think it’s just a crappy backache? Yes. Did my mother’s BC metastasize in her back? Yes. The cancer thoughts are never gone. Every month is BCAM. I don’t know if it’s possible to ever forget what we’ve been through and what the future holds. Most people feel that I have survived cancer forever. I believe that I will have survived cancer when I die of something else. My family doesn’t mention it often, but I know it’s always in the back of their minds. We take it day by day and make the best of our days. That’s life!!

    1. Donna, As I wrote, it doesn’t really matter to me what month it is. Advocacy continues no matter what the calendar says. Our reality continues 365 days a year. Still, I’m not sad to see it go either. Since I didn’t really go anywhere this year, I didn’t see much pink ribbon stuff. But the stale narrative definitely persists. I’m glad your explant surgery is behind you and that you’re feeling really good about all that. I’m sorry about your horrible back pain though, and I sure hope you get some answers AND relief. Cancer remains a silent lurker. That’s just something we deal with. Day by day, as you said. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow, Donna, you are right. Thank you for your honesty. People think Pink is pretty and therefore don’t understand the weight that Cancer Havers truly bear. I didn’t.

    I am two months out from a Stage 2 ER+/P+/HER2 negative diagnosis, and still awaiting a mastectomy. I never thought much about strange pains here and there, but everything is amplified. The what-ifs are the gnats that won’t leave me alone.

    I know that once I have that surgery, the train of my life will be on another track completely – until I’m in the grave. But the whole thing never fully escapes my thought processes. Thank you for your post.

      1. I’m so sorry for your loss all those years ago, Hillary. It’s been 40 yrs since I lost my mom to MBC. Sometimes it seems like yesterday. I truly do feel your pain and I hope you have wonderful memories to see you through the hurt.

        1. Thank you Nancy for the kind words about my dad as well as your encouragement about my surgery. Let’s get this roller coaster started!

          And you are welcome about the analogy. Do the gnats ever go away ?

          1. Hilary, You’re welcome. The gnats might thin out, but they never go away entirely. Best of luck with surgery and beyond!

    1. Hilary, I like your analogy with gnats. Never heard that one before! I’m sorry you’re dealing with all this stuff now too. Hoping your mastectomy and everything else goes as smoothly as possible. Thank you for sharing. My best to you.

  3. My husband says the same exact thing about my blog, but I think it’s more that he’s afraid to read it. I’m sure once I die, he will take comfort in hearing my voice in my words. I started writing as a gift for him but it became much bigger than that and it’s nothing like I originally thought it would be. But the day I heard the words “you have terminal lobular stage four metastatic breast cancer with bone inclusion” I felt like a dead deer in the tail lights of a hit and run driver’s speeding car. They don’t like looking back. The doctors at the hospital didn’t care too much for my kind of hopeless case – the incurable. But things changed between March 2015 and today. The clinical trials that were well under way like PALOMA 3 and PALOMA 2 – and added years to my life that I cannot thank those women who gave of themselves to participate in not knowing if they’d survive the trials or of which they’d even reap the benefits. I’m not thrilled with the specialization of BCAM or the pink-fuscation of the real issues- my “rosy lunettes” thank you Moira Rose from Schitts Creek (a must watch avail on Netflix if you’ve not had the pleasure of laughing out loud at least 10 x per episode and laughter is great medicine) but I don’t know how to say to people that I don’t look that sick but inside I’m a big mess of chemo thrashed and cancer smashed Bones and Organs. And it sucks that MBC gets one stinking day – we should at least have as many days as a ratio of a percentage of people who will get secondary or metastatic breast cancer – and I know one of the things that keeps you up at night for many very sad and important reasons Nancy. I love you your spirit and your never ending support. I’ve taken to cancer endurer given that’s how it feels most days. I endure the pain, the many forms of collateral damage thank you Dr Susan Love, and I endure…my life. We carry on best we can knowing our bodies are going to turn on us sooner or later hopefully later and kill us. But we all pray we are part of the growing small % of stage 4 breast cancer endurers (courtesy of Rudy Fischman) who will live beyond the 2.6 year average mortality from diagnosis. I’m lucky to be here. But it’s not a gift and I was fairly self aware before so I don’t have a happy happy joy joy pink fairy dust farting attitude. I have resilience and humor, hope and tenacity and that’s what I think keeps me going. Oh and I’m in a great deal of denial, but whatever works. What. Ever. Works.
    You’re the best.

    1. Ilene, As always, I appreciate your insights. Resilience, humor, hope and tenacity are pretty darn important for all of us really. You’ve endured so much, so Cancer Endurer seems pretty accurate. Just started watching Schitts Creek, so now I’m thinking – Moira gets breast cancer? Anyway, the show is pretty funny, and I love how it’s just twenty minutes. Dear Hubby and I put it on when we need a dose of light-heartedness during the recent stressful news-cycle days. Thank you for kind words. You’re not too bad yourself. xo

      1. No she doesn’t but her use of the English language is a treat. And seeing her and Eugene Levy from their days of SCTV and movies like Best in Class – levy plays her husband and he actually has two left feet! You must see it – I saw it in the theater with my mom years ago before she died from Alzheimer’s. How these things can go from light to difficult so fast. Love you Nancy. You’re a light in a lot of difficult situations and I thank you for your friendship.

        1. Ilene, Oh good. About the breast cancer. She is a character! I have not seen that movie, so I’ll have to watch it sometime. What a nice memory about your mom. Love you too. Take care.

  4. Nancy, Thank you for this post. I’m a year out from my DCIS diagnosis and I’ve got scans coming up in a few weeks. I can already feel the nerves coming. I’m well aware it could come back and I could have more treatment in the future. But, I still have a life to live, even with the recurrence worries.

    1. Jen, You’re still a newbie then, relatively speaking. The cancer experience is never over. That’s just reality. We all carry on – baggage, worries and all. Thank you for reading and commenting too. Best of luck with those upcoming scans.

  5. This sunday will mark 2 years since the words “well, its cancer” made their debut into my life. Eighteen days later I was having my mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and a reduction in the cancer-free breast. I think about it every day. How can I not?one look in the mirror reminds me. There are scars. The recon breast has no feeling and a tatooed nipple (that’s a hit to intimacy right there). The belly is numb from the flap procedure. The back of the arm is numb from the lymphnode removal. And lets not forget the lymphedema and cording. These are all the things people don’t see when people look at you after cancer. I have been told I look great and that it looks like life is a lot lighter for me now. Nope…still scared out of my mind that cancer will be back. I don’t mention any of that or how it makes me to a lot of people out of fear of sounding like a complainer. Most days are good but there are definitely days where I think “how is this my life?”

    1. Diane, I hear you. On all of it. I find it helpful to have a place where you can speak your truth, or someone with whom you can share openly – inperson or online. I suppose that’s part of why I keep blogging. Readers get that. Speaking your truth does not mean you’re a complainer. Some people get that. Others not so much. Thank you for sharing. Your truths are always welcome here.

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