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Reclaiming Your Life After Breast Cancer

Updated on July 2, 2011

They Treated Your Breast Cancer So Why Doesn't Everything Feel Okay?

I can remember the day I was diagnosed like it was yesterday. I was in shock. I had a 7 year old son and I was afraid I was going to die from the same disease that claimed my mother at the age of 36. I was going to do everything I could to get through this. So I put on my warrior face and went into the most difficult journey I would ever take. During the next two years I would undergo a mastectomy, re-constructive surgery and undergo 6 months of chemotherapy. It was tough and I felt like giving up many times but I finally made it to the end. I remember the day the nurse hugged me and wished me well. I was ecstatic. I felt this huge weight release from me and I was ready to just jump right back into my life. No one warned me that it wasn't going to be that easy. I was expecting to go back to my life but what I didn't realize was my life was now changed. I could never go back to what it was.

The Fear

I wanted to believe that my body has been healed. I had the surgery, did the chemo and now I was better. Or was I? Living with the fear of a recurrence can be something that can overwhelm you. I felt like since my treatment was over, I somehow wasn't fighting the cancer anymore. Every twinge and every pain sent me into a panic. I couldn't sleep at night and my doctor prescribed ativan for my anxiety. He even suggested an antidepressant. These medications do help women in my situation but in my case, I felt I needed to address the fear not mask it. How could I do this? I started to look into ways I could prevent a recurrence. Exercise kept popping up in all of my research. A Harvard Medical Study School done in 2005 found that women that walked 3-5 hrs a week significantly reduced their chances of a recurrence. I had an "a-ha" moment. I could still keep actively working to fight this disease. I felt empowered. So I took my two dogs out on walks every single day walking briskly and feeling like I was still knocking cancer to the ground. My cancer was strongly estrogen positive which means that my tumors use estrogen as a fuel to grow. When you have more body fat you also have more estrogen. I kept thinking about that as I walked knowing that if I could try to keep my weight down I was keeping that nasty estrogen at bay. I started looking into to what else I could do. That just got me going and I started looking into what foods were good for prevention of cancer. We are what we eat, right?  I  knew that broccoli had great antioxidants but , you needed to eat a ton of it  to get any benefits. That's when I heard of the product "Broccosprouts". Developed by scientists at John Hopkins Hospital broccosprouts have a guaranteed consistent level of sulforaphane GS, the compounds that aid the antioxidant function of our bodies. According to the broccosprouts site "   sulforaphane glucosinolate is a long-lasting antioxidant that triggers Phase 2 enzymes in the body that help to remove free radicals and other chemicals that my cause DNA damage. Unlike Vitamin C, which requires several doses per day, SGS requires about 3 or 4 doses per week."d. Amazingly enough I found the .sprouts to be crunchy and delicious. The great thing is you need to eat only a 1 ounce serving. I would have to eat 1  1/2 pounds of broccoli to get the  same equivalent benefits . The last finding I have come across in my drive to keep away cancer was  vitamin D levels. Laboratory and animal studies done suggest a link between low vitamin D3 levels and breast cancer. Newer studies are even suggesting that women that have lower D3 levels have more aggressive tumors and worse prognosis Although studies are  still being done and the American Cancer Society cannot yet recommend a D supplement as preventive measure, this was something I brought up to my oncologist. He then began to test my blood levels for D3 as well as give me a supplement. I was still fighting my cancer but just in a different way.  The more ways I found, the more  my fog and depression seemed to lift.

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer Informational Links

The Monster In the Mirror

Working to keep the cancer at bay was working for me.. However I still wasn't grasping this new woman I was seeing in the mirror. Bloated by the steroids that were used during chemo, hair that had thinned and one breast, this was a woman I did not recognize. I felt disfigured and did not feel sexy at all. I knew I had done what I needed to do in order  to survive but that didn't seem to matter. It didn't matter how many people told me that I looked great or how busy I kept myself. I couldn't get past this new person that was now me. I have to be honest. This was not easy to overcome. I think you need to find a peace with yourself. Create a whole new you and stop trying to be the woman you used to be You can never go back to who you were. Honestly though, that is not a bad thing. Now you have a new perspective, a new appreciation of this gift of life you have been given a second chance for. How many people get that opportunity? It takes a while to meet this women in the mirror with open arms, Your relationship with your significant other may be something that you need to work on together. .Communication on how you feel is paramount. I don't think your heart can heal overnight. You have been through a war and it will take time to come out the other side. That's just the way it is and once you can accept that you can be on the road to healing. It is amazing how your mind can be so fragile. I felt I needed to work on how I felt and came across an interesting technique called EFT ( Emotional Freedom Technique) that helped me work through the pain I was feeling as a result of my surgery and diagnosis. This was a life savior for me. The darkness began to lift.

Emotional Freedom Technique

Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT is a technique that uses tapping on acupressure points to disrupt energy fields while addressing your problems and issues. You start with the problem and end with an affirmation. The claim is that EFT will balance the body energy system. As many practitioners have stated while using this technique, this is not a cure for anything but simply a tool that can be used to regain balance in our emotional, physical and spiritual lives.This is also not a replacement for mental health counseling, Knowing all of that I decided to give it a try.I honestly felt I had nothing to lose.

I created my reminder phrase to work on " Even though I feel disfigured because of my surgery, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

I used the basic EFT recipe and went through all ten acupressure points after doing the initial reminder phrase. As i tapped on each point I would say " I feel disfigured". I went through all the ten points and took a deep breath at the end. I repeated this three times. I can't say it was a miracle but I did feel a better. Honestly was surprised by that since I am quite the skeptic. I have being doing this religiously and I am beginning now to put some affirmations in as I tap " I am beautiful" "I am a survivor". I can't say if this will work for others but this has really helped me come to peace with what I have been through. I think no one can love you until you love yourself.

EFT Video

6 Year Survivor

It has been 6 years this May 2011 since I was first diagnosed. Now when I look at this woman in the mirror I embrace her. Yes, she is not the same but I have found a peace with that. I have reinvented me. I am proud. I am strong. I am grateful. Hugs out there to all my breast cancer sisters. Stay strong. Fight hard. xxooo


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