One of the hardest things I had to deal with after my mastectomy was the pressure to be over cancer.
I know they meant well, but the friends and family who announced “the worst is over” and moved on left me behind in their dust, unable to follow.
Of course, all of the pressure I felt wasn’t external. I pressured myself too by expecting somehow to return to “normal,” an expectation that took its own sweet time to die.
But slowly, and with immense support, I learned how to relieve the pressure.
How to Cope with the Pressure to be Over Cancer
My pre-cancer self knew nothing of the disease. I stumbled through the four and a half months it took to get a diagnosis like a kindergartener in a graduate course.
At six and a half months in, I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. By then, my bright red, hip-to-hip scar, missing nipple and asymmetrical breasts gave me a pretty good handle on cancer’s physical effects.
Getting my head around the emotional consequences was infinitely harder.
Looking back, it’s not like I didn’t feel anything. I was miserable, fatigued, lonely, stressed, angry and overwhelmed. But, unlike physical scars, the severity of those wounds wasn’t obvious when I looked in the mirror.
I had no idea then that recuperating from the emotional devastation of cancer was going to be even harder than recuperating from the physical damage.
In fact, people I trusted told me the exact opposite. As soon as I got home from the hospital, friends and family expressed relief that “the worst is over” and returned to their regularly scheduled lives. A cancer survivor I knew and one of my doctors assured me that cancer would take a year of my life and then “it would be over.”
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