or what happens next, once you have been given the all clear…

One thing that is difficult to deal with once you have been told you have cancer, is what you are supposed to do when you are told that it’s done, it’s out of your body, well done, thank you very much. What do you do next? For the best part of a year (more or less depending on how nasty your cancer was), you were in the hands of a medical team that told you what to do, what medication to take or not to take, your life was organised between treatments and tests and doctors appointments. Then you are done and everything stops.

On the one hand you are lifted, relieved, happy, giddy etc…On the other hand, you feel numb, at a loss, sometimes a little depressed (lucky for me I didn’t), people expect you to “bounce back” to your old self but your old self is not there anymore…your experience changed you, maybe not a lot but enough that you might not want to be your “old self” again…your old self was the one who got cancer. So what do you do?

Your doctors and nurses were only interested in dealing with your physical symptoms and now that there are all gone, they are moving on to the next patient. But your emotional scars are still there. You faced the possibility that you would die sooner rather than later, your body is changed, you have a new awareness that things don’t always happen to others and that bad things happen to good people too…so what do you do?

Lucky for me (and us London based people) there is a charity called Breast Cancer Care and they run a seminar called “Moving Forward” which is designed just for women who have just completed their treatment and are “cured” and who are not quite sure what to do next? What does it all mean and most importantly, how can you help ensure it won’t come back. My physiotherapist at King’s College told me about it and as soon as I could I signed up for the next one. They run regularly and take only small groups so places are dear (and free by the way). You get 4 x 2.5 hours session over 4 weeks to talk about the various aspects of life after cancer, totally geared towards breast cancer. You have to be able to commit to the 4 weeks and the sessions are during working hours – lucky for me, it was held just across the street from where I work and my boss has been very supportive throughout.

PART 1 was on Tuesday 3rd September and we covered Lymphoedema and Menopause.
Although interesting on a prevention level, at this stage I am not affected by either (I think) so all I took really from it are links and resources to check if I do get affected. Here are a couple of the things I learnt:

Wearing a compression garment if you don’t have it, won’t help preventing it
Nobody knows why some people get it and why others don’t
Taking care of your skin and exercise are the only things to do to help prevent it from appearing.

If you are affected by lymphoedema, there are some good blogs out there by people who have to deal with it too…you can try Helen’s one http://lymphnodetransplant.wordpress.com/ and she links to other interesting ones.

There are a crazy amount of symptoms and they all suck.
You are considered menopausal if you haven’t had your periods for 12 consecutive months.
If you have gone through it already, the medication (Tamoxifen) won’t trigger it back.
There aren’t that many remedies to help you deal with some of the symptoms.

I started feeling some of the menopausal symptoms when I first started Tamoxifen: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia…but they have subsided now and although my period are not as regular as they used to be, they come and go enough that I think I might not have early menopause…yay for me.

Overall this session was information but fairly abstract for me as I am not affected by either. Still I know what to look for and where to look for more info should this change.

Next part: Diet & Exercise