Mental Health Breast Cancer Battle
During Breast Cancer Awareness month in October each year, we celebrate those incredible warriors who fought courageous battles and won. We also commemorate those who were not as fortunate but inspire friends, family and those they loved to keep striving for change and a world where there is a cure for breast cancer. Read more about the mental health breast cancer battle.
Continuously Fighting Mental Health Breast Cancer Battle Issues
Breast cancer survivors are continuously fighting on the battlefield to win the war on their physical, mental and emotional health. Survivors have been through hell and have managed to fight their way back to a healthy life. Thankfully, breast cancer survivors have tripled in the past decade, but there is still a long way to go before there is a cure.
A Toll on Body, Mind, and Spirit
Mental Health Breast Cancer issues take a huge toll on the body, mind, and spirit. We often hear of some of the most well-known physical treatments. These may include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, bone marrow transplant or immunotherapy and medication and their effects on the body.
Some common side effects such as extreme nausea, vomiting, bleeding, fatigue, constipation, fatigue and hair loss plague those who battle this destructive disease. What is not discussed as frequently is the effects a breast cancer diagnosis has on the mind and spirit.
Meet Breast Cancer Survivor, Kristen
Kristen is a brave breast cancer survivor who fought this relentless disease while managing her role as a stay-at-home-mom to three kids with her husband who travels constantly. She had an aggressive tumor and was told she would need chemotherapy, radiation and a cancer drug called Tamoxifen.
She was also told to consider a mastectomy and also natural and holistic approaches for treatment. When faced with several options for treatment, it was a very daunting task because a positive outcome was not a guarantee. Kristen decided to seek solace in her spiritual beliefs and made a decision to have surgery just to remove the tumor. She declined all the ‘typical’ treatment options and instead decided to focus on a more natural/holistic path of treatment to maintain a healthy lifestyle and hopefully help fight cancer.
She was scared but very brave and determined. Kristen said, “I did not use traditional mental health treatment, but my faith gave me the strength to push through the negative thoughts and the worries about my tomorrow.” Kristen stated, “my husband and my children and the rest of my family supported my decisions and huddled around me when I was in despair”.
With glee, Kristen proudly states that she has been cancer-free for the last three years and does not regret any decision or even the diagnosis itself. She is grateful to have learned about the natural and holistic approaches to living and practices them still to this day.
Meet Breast Cancer Survivor, Raquel
Raquel received her diagnosis at the young age of thirty just two months after having her first baby. She explained, “ I felt the joys of being a new mom were being completely stripped from me after having multiple biopsies which resulted in the inability to lift anything for days, including my own baby.”
She was diagnosed with a type of Breast Cancer called Paget’s disease which affects the milk ducts, with the only remedy was to have a mastectomy.
In her silent suffering, she felt she needed to put on a brave face for friends and family who were noticeably upset at the circumstances of her life and yet, they didn’t give her the emotional support she needed during this time. She became numb to life and just went through the motions. She did what was needed to ensure her long-term physical health.
Fast forward to December 2018, Raquel became pregnant again and her plans to have reconstruction on her breast were stalled. However, her overwhelming emotions demanded attention and were front and center after the birth of her baby.
She recalled “I had thoughts of feeling ugly and deformed…sadness of not being able to give my new baby breastmilk…felt the pressure to look good. There were triggers all around”. Raquel shared that her husband responded to the sensitivity to her triggers and he gave an incredible amount of support in all aspects of their lives.
When they watched television together, she revealed that he was intentional to avoid movies or shows with nudity to limit a re-injury of her esteem about her own body. Raquel admitted that her husband has not seen her naked since before her breast cancer diagnosis.
Mental Health Breast Cancer Treatment
Though Kristen tells us she did not seek therapy for mental health at the time of or throughout her cancer diagnosis treatment, it is not unusual for a woman to need further assistance to stay positive and/or optimistic during an incredibly difficult time.
A diagnosis such as cancer can and often does spark anxiety, worry, fear, depression, anger, regret and a plethora of other complex emotions that cannot be sorted alone – nor should they be!
Psychotherapy is essential and should be strongly encouraged throughout the time of a patient’s diagnosis. Healthy grieving allows one to process having the diagnosis and the impact on every aspect of their life and the lives of the close family members.
A healthy mindset can be seen as a pivotal form of medication to aid the fight of cancer and help with the mental health breast cancer battle.
Raquel discusses her bravery and strength through her husband and her mom who had breast cancer four years prior. She says she sought therapy during the last two months of her pregnancy but actually kept her breast cancer hidden from her therapist for a long time.
She stated she was just not ready to face such raw emotion. Raquel’s advice for other breast cancer survivors is this: “allow yourself to process the emotions. Stay away from people who aren’t making you feel great. We will eventually feel comfortable in our new bodies. Time and the right support system are key.”