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.
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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?