Home Now what? The highs and lows of survivorship

Coping with the 'new normal'

Hi all 

I'm grateful that I've gotten through invasive treatment and life has kind of gone back to normal, although I'm still working out my 'new normal'. I finished rads 6 week ago and have been on Tamoxifen for the last couple of weeks. I've been very tired, which I know could be an after effect of rads, and am also very nervous about the potential horrible side effects of Tamo. 

I've also been very depressed and seemingly small things set me off. I really don't care about my job anymore, which in a way is a good thing, as it means I no longer work 60 hour weeks. I'm only working a regular full-time load. But it's making me very depressed and I'm considering a career change, but don't think I have the energy to start a new job. 

But everyone - apart from my partner - seems to think I should be ok. I have to have a performance review with my boss next week and talk about my 'career goals'. I no longer have any! Not working 60 hours a week is it! No doubt not wanting to climb the ladder is going to go against me - and I've been told before that if I don't go for promotion, I'll eventually be sacked. Up or out. 

But I'm really tired of other people saying that I should be thankful for my supposedly fabulous job. A close friend also advised me to 'stop being so negative' about my work. Telling a depressed person to not be negative!! I know I should probably see a counsellor, but I don't have the energy to deal with all that emotion...

So, really, just a little vent to people who'll understand. Thanks all.


  • ArtferretArtferret MelbourneMember Posts: 259
    Depression is the worst aspect i had to deal with. I think after telling myself and my hubby about 3 times 'i think i need to see someone' i finally did and yes it helped. It went totally against the grain because I'd always been able to work through lifes ups and downs myself. This time i couldn't. It doesn't help when other people think that you should be ok...cos really you're not. That takes time, lots of long walks to help clear your head and sometimes help from someone who is trained and also doesn't know you from a bar of soap! If you're able to i think a few people in your life need to be told exactly how you are feeling right now because to honest, they don't have a clue, not having been through what you have. I was brutally honest with a couple of people and yes it did it make a difference afterwards. Try not to focus on the potential side effects of the drug. You may be one of the lucky ones who don't cop it as bad. Time is great healer, so the saying goes and it's true. I kept telling myself, give it 12 months cos it's going to take that long for things to settle down and it did and it has. Most of all, be kind to yourself @rose
  • roserose Member Posts: 34
    Thanks Artferret for your wonderful advice. I did see a cancer counsellor a couple of times as I was going through treatment, and she was very helpful. I know I could see her again - but I also feel like a bit of a fraud. After all, I'm lucky as I got through all this relatively easily, and complaining about the difficulties of a 'good' job seems rather self-indulgent...
  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,974
    edited March 2019
    I get it, I get it, I get it. You are different now, you will never be the same person again. The old you is gone, there's no going back to her. Things that 'worked' before no longer work.

    I am struggling through the same thing. So many of us here are. I struggled for several months but it got worse for me so I sought counselling. I'm seeing a clinical psychologist and I think it's helping.

    We all have to pick our way through this very difficult time. Your new normal will be different from mine, from anyone's. Start with being kinder and gentler with yourself. Acknowledge that what has happened has changed you. Give yourself space and time to feel that.

    You could think of it like this (just read this analogy on the internet): you were a caterpillar. When cancer arrived you went into survival mode and you, the caterpillar, went into a cocoon, while all the attention was on surviving. Now that you survived the caterpillar can come out again. But no, you don't come out of the cocoon as a caterpillar. You've changed, you come out as a butterfly.

    That's a bit of a cutesy way of looking at it, but you get what it means I'm sure! You can't fight the change, you have to accept it, use the opportunities it gives you to make changes that need to be made and maybe we'll end up being OK with where we land.

    Can you tell some closer friends how it is now so you don't have to pretend? Or maybe a support group where you can let your guard down with fellow survivors? Kerping up that facade is exhausting .

    Have you looked into The Otis Foundation? A trip away with your husband might be a good circuit breaker.

    Doing something you love, just for you, for a bit of time everyday seems to be a common piece of advice. What comes to your mind?

    Baby steps. I can't tell you it gets better from personal experience, but I'm trusting everyone here who tells me that it does. Big hug, K xox
  • ArtferretArtferret MelbourneMember Posts: 259
    @iserbrown is right...no way are you a fraud. I thought i had a relatively easy path through bc, 2 lumpectomies,  no rads, no chemo, just hormone therapy. But whatever path your bc went it still hits you in ways that you least expect and that's the hard part. Would i have coped any better if my husband hadn't had prostate cancer at the same time? I like to think i would've but i don't know. Do i still hanker after the old me...you bet i do...the one who could perform any task without having to think how to do it without hurting a particular part of my body, my hands mainly. Go see that counsellor again because it sounds like you need it and like iserbrown said if you have any leave up your sleeve take it to give yourself time to take stock of where your life is now and where you want want it to go. Do what makes you happy. Cathxx
  • AfraserAfraser MelbourneMember Posts: 3,981
    I consider I got through relatively easily - mastectomy, chemo, herceptin and still on AIs - but no nausea, fatigue, chemo brain or depression. But a good counsellor (consulted when I hit my third long term side effect) clarified my thinking of what was 'normal' considerably. I was handling cancer just fine, but was I really anticipating keeping up a 60 hour week, what were my career wishes, what was I working to achieve? It wan't so much that cancer had changed my ideas, more that I had been ignoring signs of what I didn't want/like for some time prior to diagnosis. A life threatening illness, no matter how 'lightly' you get off, is likely to force some reconsiderations about how you want to spend your time! I'm still the same person, I haven't turned into someone different - but I focus better on how I spend my time, who I spend it with and what gives me satisfaction. Small steps, not necessarily doing impulsive things that you may later regret, will get you where you need to be in the long run. Best wishes.
  • MeganMMeganM Member Posts: 60
    I didn’t see a counselor connected to the hospital until after treatment finished as I felt like I was sleeping the day away. She was very helpful in a practical sense
  • SarahSSarahS Member Posts: 9
    Hey @rose and everyone! I definitely don't think you're alone in feeling that the "new normal" post-cancer is actually much harder than you would expect.. it seems that people are very supported through the cancer diagnosis, and then once you are "cured", the support just drops off. 
    I am a provisional psychologist in Melbourne (currently doing PhD) and a big interest of mine is working with cancer patients / survivors in helping them to manage the emotional challenges that come with cancer. From the other side, I do always wonder how psychs/mental health workers could improve their service delivery! Do you think there's enough professional psychological support out there for cancer survivors? What would you want to be different? Do you think that possible barriers may include geographical distance from adequate services / time it takes to travel? 

    P.S. I have also heard wonderful things about The Otis Foundation!! @kmakm

  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 6,247

    Welcome to the blog!!  Out of interest - Are you here more as a researcher for you PhD, or because you too have been touched with Breast Cancer yourself?

    If you haven't already, I would highly recommend that you (and pass it on to ALL other health professional who works with cancer patients - Breast Cancer in particular) read Liz O'Riordan's Breast Cancer Blog - she was a fit, young Breast Cancer surgeon in the UK who was diagnosed with BC a few years back, having surgery, chemo & meds - and then had a recurrence last year.  She has now had to give up being a Breast Cancer surgeon as a direct result of her own diagnosis, surgery & treatments ..... Click on the 'Cancer Blog' for her story.  Her most recent update was in the last 2 weeks.  It is a very honest, truthful, painful story of her own BC experience - and as she is a health professional herself, is more likely to be believed than us 'normal folk' going thru BC.

    I am going on an Otis Foundation retreat at the end of April.  I can't wait!

    Private Message sent
  • SarahSSarahS Member Posts: 9
    Hi @arpie
    Thanks for your reply! I am here as a 'budding' psychologist (who will soon be delivering therapy in an oncology setting) and researcher. I have not experienced breast cancer myself but I have family who have. It's easy enough for me to read dozens of research papers / interpret statistics to understand the cancer experience, but really, the personal experiences are highly invaluable in helping me to understand the client in front me.
    I am currently adapting and delivering a new psychological therapy to help cancer patients / survivors, so the more information I get, the more relevant this therapy will be for people struggling with depression/anxiety during/after cancer.

    And yes I have come across Liz!! I learned about her on the podcast "You Me and the Big C" (I highly recommend listening to this podcast if you haven't already. It is seriously entertaining, witty and emotional, all at the same time).

    I hope you enjoy the Otis Foundation retreat! The pictures look phenomenal. 
  • roserose Member Posts: 34
    Hi @SarahS, that's great that you're a psych who wants to help BC patients and survivors. I'm an academic, and while I support your research and career, it's not ethical to use people's stories from this forum. This forum is a safe space for people going through BC, and we are not research participants. We have not given consent for information to be collected or used, even if only for your information. I also don't think it's ethical for you to be on this site. You might want to discuss this with your PhD supervisor and rethink your approach. The admin team might also be able to clarify the policy on this. I wish you well with your work and your research. 
  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 6,247
    If you check out this thread, @rose, Sarah explains that she is not using any of the posts for any study or her PhD etc ... 


    We have had other professionals put up posts requesting areas of interest for them to look into (e.g. specific research areas recently) ..... and it is well worth getting it from the horse's mouth, than just guessing.    
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,960
    Actually, @rose - this is an open forum - anyone can see the discussions here without registering.  They just can't post.  So our stories could be being used by anyone in the world and unless they tell us, we are none the wiser.  The closed groups are the private ones.  But probably a good idea @SarahS to have a chat to the mods @Giovanna_BCNA?
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