Anxiety after breast cancer
You look great and physically you’re feeling really good too. Everyone is relieved that the worst is behind you now that your treatment has come to an end, but you’re beginning to feel your general health, anxiety and breast cancer fears are taking centre stage, and it’s starting to drag you down.
It’s not uncommon to feel that your anxiety and breast cancer fears take over when treatment stops. When you first started on your journey the doctor’s appointments and trips to and from the hospital were disruptive and frightening to say the least. But slowly they began to become a part of your routine and provided an environment in which you felt supported, understood and treated with the utmost care and attention, so much so that at times members of your healthcare team may have seemed closer to you than perhaps your friends or family members did.
Now that has come to an end and, as much as it’s a relief not to have to keep going back, it’s not unusual on some level to miss the security that gave. You may also find you start to worry that something may get missed if you don’t remain vigilant about your health.
What if breast cancer comes back?
Fear of recurrence after you’ve been discharged is commonplace. Little aches and pains that you barely would have noticed before suddenly take on a greater significance, so it’s natural and completely understandable to feel anxious and afraid. However, it’s also important to remind yourself that everyone has minor symptoms now and then, and that before your diagnosis you would probably have brushed most of them off as something of little or no significance.
It’s a hard balance to strike between being overly worried and having real cause for concern. If you have a symptom that is urgent or severe, or one that lasts for several days, you must see your doctor. Just try to bear in mind that most breast cancer survivors never have a recurrence. As time goes by you will find that your fears start to subside and your anxiety and concerns about your health lessen as a result.
So how do you keep anxiety at bay? By reaching out to other women who have been in the same position as you, you might just find a tip or two that will help you get back on track and deal with any concerns you may have in a pragmatic way.
You are not alone
To help you, we’ve gathered together real-life advice from women around the world. This is a natural stage in your recovery process, but the important thing to remember is that you’re not alone – there’s lots of great advice right here to help you through.
- Don’t bottle it up. Discuss your health, anxiety and breast cancer fears with a friend, family member or breast care nurse
- Consider joining a support group where you can meet other women who know exactly what you’re going through
- Try to keep your anxiety at bay by taking your mind off it a little – perhaps read a good book, do some gardening, go for a walk or watch a film
- Know that your anxiety is completely understandable and incredibly common and that it will lessen in time
Being diagnosed with breast cancer instantly sets off an emotional crisis for a lot of women. In moments of crisis it is only natural to switch to survival mode. Thoughts, behaviours and emotions all reflect our drive to survive an attack or perceived threat. Of course fear in the moment can be a life-saving warning signal that you are in imminent danger. It becomes a problem, however, when fear turns into worry and that then turns in to anxiety. Listen to your body and talk to women who have been in a similar situation about your fears. You are not alone and by talking, you might just be able to help someone else too.