Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Deb K. on December 5, 2013
I was Diagnosed with:
Breast Cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
July 5, 2007
Employment Status:
not employed
Type and Description of Treatments:
Lumpectomy. Chemotherapy. Radiation. 10 years of hormonal therapy.
How do you feel today?

Physically I feel pretty good right now.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I have gained a sense of self-confidence that I didn't have before cancer. I feel I can face almost anything. I am willing to try new things because "what's the worst that could happen". I started and completed a Master's Degree! Family means more to me than ever and it meant a lot to me before cancer. I am no longer able to work. I continue to have long-term side-effects from my treatments. I have gained 40 lbs even though I have been more active and focused on my physical body than before cancer. I am a calmer person, partly because I have little to no emotions over things that previously were very important to me. I have more specialists and have a medical record that is several reams of paper thick. Cancer has brought many new people into and unfortunately out of my life. I have found I have much more in common with people who would otherwise have been strangers to me.

What is going well for you right now?

I have a very supportive family. My husband and two adult children are very accepting of my changed life.

What is not going well for you right now?

My life lacks structure.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

There have been many challenges. One unexpected challenge was the difficulty I have had with my private disability insurance company. It has been so difficult that I have trouble even writing about it now. I never thought I would be one to iniate a lawsuit, but I did. The physical and emotional energy that I had to invest to get what legally was mine in the first place took away from my healing and has made that process all the more difficult.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

My husband, my children, my support groups. I spend time in prayer and solitude.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

My long-term goals are more or less non-existent anymore. My 5-year plan post-treatment has not panned out becasue of the need to continue treatment for another 5 years. I have some short-term goals that I have accomplished, but have not been able to use them as stepping stones to my future. Yet.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

I do not work now.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

There are a lot of advantages to continuing to work. Each person's situation is different. Everyone has the right to make his/her own decision about working through treatment. If you are able to work you must not forget that your body has gone through major treatment and is not the same as it was before. Be kind to yourself. Take some time off if you can. Speak up regarding accomodations in the workplace to make it easier for you to stay working. If you are not being treated properly speak up! Get others involved. Get an attorney if you have to. Know your rights.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

I've had many side-effects. Neuropathy from the chemotherapy. Chemotherapy induced menopause. Hot flashes and night sweats so bad that I have needed medication to deal with them. Insomnia. Day time fatigue resulting from carryover of meds I take so I can sleep. Accelerated osteoarthritis in my joints requiring pain meds, injections, and future surgery.Fibromyalgia. Depression. Chemobrain. And now that I have written all of this I see that the questions asks How do I deal with the side-effects? Appropriate for me to notice as I am typing "chemobrain".
Hot Flashes/Sweats--medication, staying away from direct heat/sun
Osteoarthritis--medication, injections, braces, avoiding things that aggravate my joints
Chemobrain--Lumosity, avoiding commitments and responsibilities
Depression--medication, therapy. support groups
Weight gain--awareness of the cause, being mindful of what I am eating,

For all of my current health issues, which I consider side effects from cancer treatment, I know I must reduce my stress, maintain good sleep habits, stop when I get tired, not do activities that will trigger or make my symptoms worse, exercise regularly as I am able, balance my activity and inactivity.

I volunteer. I keep my mind active by taking classes and learning new things.