What’s Next for Me?

So you’ve made it through surgery, your treatments have ended and your doctors release you and you are sent back off into the world. This can actually be a very frightening and unsettling time for most patients. Common sense would tell you that you should be elated that you are finished with treatment. And you are, but there is uncertainty. Will the cancer come back if I’m left to my own devices and am not being as closely monitored by my doctors?

For months now you have been in a ” Fight or Flight ” mode. Head down, moving through doctors appointments, testing scans, surgery and treatments. You have been working full-time  fighting to kill this cancer that has invaded your body, to survive and heal. It has taken over your whole world,sapped your energy, strength and confidence. Your diagnosis has made you feel fragile and vulnerable.

This is what I experienced when I finished with my surgery and treatment.  About 6 months after my final surgery, I felt a profound sadness that I didn’t understand. I just couldn’t shake these feelings even though everyone around me kept telling me how great I was doing and how proud they were of me. Some of my friends even called me their Princess Warrior!  That’s a lot to live up to!

I felt somewhat disconnected from my old life. What did I want my life to look like now. What is my real purpose in life? What brings me the most joy?

No one would guess what I was feeling.  Whenever anyone ask me how I was doing, I would smile and answer “Great!”  I was telling them what I knew they wanted to hear to comfort them. After all, I was back to work and to the world, I looked completely healed. I was reluctant to share my feelings with many people other than my husband and a few close friends.  I couldn’t explain why I was feeling this way and actually felt guilty about it.  After beating cancer three times, I should be flying high! Is there something wrong with me? Am I the only one who feels this way?

So how did I finally overcome this funk that I found myself in. I had decided to use my experiences to help other women but I didn’t know how or where to begin. Well life is full of many blessings. Just as I was at my lowest point, I received a brochure from The Cancer House of Hope about a program  of Survivorship. I couldn’t believe it! I felt as though this program had been created with me in mind. I signed up immediately!

This where things get very interesting. When I arrived on the day of the program, I recognized one of the women leading the event.

Now to tell you the complete story, I have to back up 2 years earlier. Jack and I were at a fundraiser and at one point in the evening I saw Jack talking with a man on the other side of the room. I also noticed that sitting at the same table was a woman wearing a scarf on her head. My first thought was that she might be undergoing chemotherapy. But what struck me most about her was that she had the most beautiful smile. She had such a radiance about her!

When Jack came back to the table, he told me that the man he had been talking with was Dan Murphy and he had not seen him in 40 years! Dan told him that his wife was indeed going through treatment for breast cancer and Jack shared with him that I also had been treated for breast cancer many years earlier.

Two weeks later , something suspicious had appeared on my mammogram and when we went to the Breast Wellness Center for my biopsy who do you think is sitting in the waiting room? Dan Murphy. Now Jack has not seen this man in 40 years and he sees him twice in two weeks!

I am ushered into the “dreaded inner waiting room”, and find Cindy sitting there. I introduce myself, explain the connection between our husbands and then she is called into her procedure and I into my biopsy. Thus began my second round of breast cancer.

So two years later when I walked into the “Survivorship Program” , I was so surprised to see Cindy as one of the facilitators! I introduced myself and as we talked we realized that not only were we breast cancer survivors we are also both Dental Hygienist. Well that was it, we just connected and became immediate friends.

Cindy encouraged me to join the Breast Cancer SupportGroup that she was facilitating.  I had attended one support group after my first surgery 25 years ago and because I was the youngest woman by far in the room, I didn’t find It helpful and never went back. But this time  after my third diagnosis , I knew that I needed something more, so I decided to give it a try.

At my first meeting I was shocked to hear all these women expressing exactly what I had been feeling! It’s normal! I’m normal! It was so liberating. I had found my tribe as Dr Christiane Northrup refers to in her book ” Goddesses Never Age”. It was only then I knew that I could move forward.

Out of the Rubble of Cancer, I knew that that I could create a new norm and a renewed faith in the future.

Soon Cindy asked me to join her in helping to facilitate the Breast Cancer Support group as well as the  8 week Survivorship program called Living a New Day, A New Norm. It is a program designed to help cancer survivors find what makes them happy again. What brings them joy. To start feeling like themselves again and to live a life with purpose.

I now know my purpose in life is help other women navigate this journey through Breast Cancer. I have found that the road to recovery was by helping others heal.

Now I knew that I wanted to pursue this role but I didn’t have a clue where to start. Sometimes you send things out into the universe and you never know how it will come back to you. Well the universe sent me Cindy and for that I am eternally grateful. You are one of my Angels. Thank you my friend

Recently, I actually facilitated my first Breast Cancer Support Group  by myself. This was especially significant since its fell on the 2 year anniversary of my bi lateral mastectomy. If anyone had told me two years after my surgery that I would be leading a support group, I would have told them that they were crazy! It shows you how far I’ve come. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and I know that I’m not done yet. I am constantly amazed and reminded daily of the body’s ability to heal both physically and emotionally . How fragile I was two years ago and now how much stronger and resilient I am today!

Check out Cindy’s blog at eachmomentwerealive.com

1 comments On What’s Next for Me?

  • Joanne you are such an inspiring, courageous woman..I admire you for all you have done to help others even through all of your trials and tribulations. Your presence is immense and you are always the cheerleader with your infectious smile and attitude. I love you and am so proud of you for all you do.. love you,Pam

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