Is surviving the hardest part of going through cancer?

31 women die from breast cancer in the UK every day, but for every death, two women survive.

I am one of those two women.

There are no words to express how grateful I am to still be alive.

But it shouldn’t be assumed that just because a woman survives breast cancer that her life is now as sweet as a cherry on an ice cream sundae.

For some of us, the hardest part of the cancer journey is surviving life after treatment.

The doctor tells us the treatment is over and that the prognosis is good, and we should return to our lives and put the experience of cancer behind us.

But how can we return to our lives when the normal we knew before being diagnosed no longer exists?

And how can we move on and put the experience of cancer behind us when that experience has profoundly changed everything about us forever?

I believe the chapter that comes after treatment can be the most difficult chapter of all.

When we are first diagnosed, we go into a state of shock; everything we knew falls away and suddenly our whole lives revolve around cancer and the fear of dying.

We switch into survival mode, into automatic pilot, and we do what we have to do. We go to doctor’s appointments, have the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation. But it’s almost as if our feelings have switched off, like the severity of the trauma is just too big, so our emotions shut down to make sure we survive.

Then it’s all over, and there’s no need to be in survival mode anymore, so we switch back from automatic into manual, and suddenly all our feelings start floating up to the surface.

And the enormity of the ordeal hits you like an emotional tsunami and you’re thrown into complete confusion, loss and disarray.

There’s nothing sweet as a cherry sundae about that.

Or is there?

I spent three years battling with depression, lack of confidence and low self worth after my cancer treatment.

I thought my happiest times were behind me, and the best version of myself had been destroyed with the cancer when I was having that chemotherapy poison pumped through my veins.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried.

When something horrible and traumatic happens to you it can actually turn out to the be the greatest gift of your life.

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event for us to become ready and willing to learn the lessons that will truly transform us.

‘Through trauma our life is shaken often in a chaotic manner, but… sometimes it is only by being forced entirely beyond our understanding and control that we can receive anew’ – Miranda Macpherson

And that is exactly what happened to me.

I know why I got cancer.

I asked for it.

I was so lost in self-hate, had such an acute inferiority complex, that I developed an eating disorder which plagued me for most of my life.

And I would openly declare, meaning every word I said, that I would rather get cancer than get fat.

I cringe admitting this to you now, but it’s the truth, that’s how sick and lost in the disease of bulimia and anorexia I was.

I was the poster child for the law of attraction; that your reality will reflect your thoughts.

And that is one of the greatest lessons that I have ever learnt.

Cancer forced me to stop obsessing with my physical appearance; it took away the two things I believed made me worthy and beautiful, my breasts and my long curly blonde hair, and insisted I go deeper.

As a result, not only did I start the journey to a relationship with myself, but I ended up falling head over heels in love with exactly who I am.

Cancer was the catalyst that stopped me from starving myself, stuffing myself, cutting myself, hating myself and trying to end my own life.

And now?

Now I’m happier than I even knew possible.

I might have wonky boobs, but I’ve never felt more beautiful in my whole life.

So, for any other cancer survivors out there, that are struggling with fear, anxiety, low self-worth or loss after treatment, please don’t give up.

I’ve been where you are now, and if I could overcome, then so can you.

Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that need to come up in order for you to truly recover.

You need to feel if you really want to heal.

‘Shock, pain and fear that we are unable to release at the time is stored within.. our bodies until a later date where it is safe enough (our survival is not threatened) to experience and release it… we are not designed for such emotions to be locked away forever… they need to be brought out into the air at a more suitable time..where we can release them.’ Miranda Macpherson

Trust that this was not all in vain, and that even if you don’t know what it is, there is a great lesson here for you to learn.

Give yourself the time, the space, and most importantly the love you need to find your way.

Your life is not over and cancer did not steal the most beautiful parts of who you are; they are still there, you just need to dig deeper to find them.

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