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Don't Worry…Be Happy

Written by MJ Reporter Willow LaMunyon

I avoided writing about breast cancer until Shelley finished the easy part. Tests, surgeries, treatments that make a person sick, knowing people are poisoning you to cure you, physical discomfort, emotional trauma, and frightening medical equipment are the easy parts. You must be wondering if I have completely lost it to call that the easy part. I have not.

Like Shelley, I have been there and know the feelings she has been and will be experiencing. There is waking up in the night feeling the terror that it will be back and tearing apart your body even more. There is worrying that you may be enjoying the most positive attention you have ever received in your life and that attention might be addictive, and you will want to be sick in order to keep it going.

A strange twinge might be a symptom of cancer returning, or could it be a sign of becoming a hypochondriac. Not knowing if an emergency room visit is in order or ignoring it easily becomes obsessive.

Your body doesn't feel the same as it did before. It doesn't even feel like your own body. You don't know how it is going to respond. You don't know what you can or can't do.

You are a different person. Physically and especially emotionally, you are no longer the person you were.

Sometimes there is the elation of having survived, and the world becomes more beautiful and every day more precious. Personal promises to become a better, stronger person and thinking I am new, now fresh born into a wiser me. Maybe there was a reason to have experienced cancer. Perhaps it was a good thing, an eye-opener.

Life can be such a paradox. The elation has another side, and it is called anger. You have found yourself to be a different person and started to explore the new you; then the new you becomes yet again a different you, and you can't stop thinking, talking about your breast cancer. Your own mind feels like a movie plot that doesn't make sense. Thank goodness for antidepressants and a medical staff that knows how to help.

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Suicide rate higher among breast cancer survivors

Nursing Critical Care: January 2007 - Volume 2 - Issue 1 - p 24

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A recent study indicates that, compared to other women, breast cancer survivors have a 37% higher risk of committing suicide, a long-term risk that continues for at least 25 years following diagnosis. In a study of 723,810 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1953 and 2001, 836 subjects committed suicide before the study's 2002 conclusion. The likelihood of suicide increased as the diagnosis worsened. Black women had the highest likelihood. At 25 years or more post-diagnosis, women remained at a 35% risk overall. Although the cumulative risk over 30 years was only 0.20%, researchers recommend that post-diagnosis follow-up include long-term counseling to address the increased risk.


Reuters Health. Breast cancer survivors have increased suicide risk. Available at: Accessed December 13, 2006.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

I know how negative this sounds, but knowledge allows for preparation to overcome the emotional trauma. Here is the list.

1- Get professional help through antidepressants or counseling, or both. Your doctor will probably talk to you about it even before you ask. I have survived breast cancer for over 30 years, but I still take antidepressants. My doctor changes them now and then to prevent addiction and ensure they continue working.

2- In-person breast cancer support groups help keep survivors informed and allow them time to relax with others experiencing the same things. A good group will help provide all kinds of fun as well as information. Often lifetime friendships come from those groups.

3- Continued support of family and friends for the long haul is important beyond all else. Life will start making sense again. So slowly, it is easy to go unnoticed as all the pieces of life begin to fit together again, and you discover that the you that you were born with is still there but stronger, wiser, braver, and happy.

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