Why I Felt Relieved to Get My Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Everybody encounters and approaches mental health in their own unique and individual way. Certain events or situations can cause a bump in the road on that journey, and we all handle that obstacle differently. For me (and for many reading this) it’s breast cancer. Whether you were diagnosed personally or have a loved one, a friend’s family member, celebrity idol, etc. who was diagnosed, it effects you in some way. For me, almost four years after my diagnosis, I am still dealing with side effects that breast cancer has had on my mental health.
At the age of 27, I was diagnosed with stage 1B but the aggression of the cancer was at a stage 3. To be honest, I do not remember much of those first few weeks of being diagnosed, it was more of a blur with all the tests, scans, and appointments that followed. I remember my healthcare team flipping through that book which is supposed to explain what is happening to you, then passing me a bag filled with pamphlets of the million and one things that could be happening to me right now, and standing in the hallway wondering what just happened over the last three hours. What I do remember is my eight month battle of not accepting, “You are too young to have breast cancer” as my diagnosis and what was to come after my surgery.
A lot of us have been through that battle of going to the doctors, being told you are too young and needing to fight the medical system for more answers. I remember coming home after another round of biopsies and sitting on the couch in tears thinking, “Why don’t they believe me? Why will no one give me answers? Am I overreacting? When will this end…?” I would walk around in a haze, with my thoughts being consumed by my anxiety and stress of just not knowing what was happening to me. My mental health deteriorated as the months went by, being left in the dark with just my thoughts to accompany me.
Fast forward through those agonizing eight months to August 1st, 2017, I get a call while I am out running on a trail by myself. “Hi Jackelyn, so it turns out it is breast cancer…” What do you think my reaction was? Angry? Sad? Infuriated? I was relieved. FINALLY! Eight months later I was told exactly the answer I always thought it was! Breast cancer! I remember ending the call and all I could think was, “I told them!” That sense of relief from finally having an answer was almost euphoric and I actually kept a date to go shopping with a friend because I felt that good and did not want something that had left me a wreck for eight months, to control me anymore. That sense of relief was such a release that I thought whatever was going to happen was going to be way easier than the mental roller coaster I had just been on.
October of that year I had my double mastectomy. I walked into it with my head held high ready to take anything cancer was about to throw at me. Even during recovery all I could focus on was staying positive and getting through this. Eventually the tubes came out, I filled my expanders and had my exchange surgery. Then, mentally, everything came spiraling down again. I was placed on Tamoxifen where I was thrown into early menopause and my partner and I had broken up after my first surgery, so I was to be thrown back into the dating world. Every time I went on a date, my anxiety shot through the roof wondering if the guy I was about to meet would ever accept my new body and the future that I now have. I had to deal with a genetic diagnosis on top of everything else, which leaves me at high risk for several other cancers.
Through all of this trauma, for some reason I never considered talking to someone professionally about what I was going through. I thought I have my amazing friends, my partner, my mom and wonderful supportive family, etc. I run, I do yoga, I got tattoos to cover up my scars and to represent what I went through…I’m fine. But I wasn’t fine. For over two years I kept quiet, kept smiling, and would only tell a select few people how I felt. No one knew of the thoughts of suicide, the nights of endless crying, how I was basically a ticking time bomb. Then one day I said enough is enough, and I reached out to a therapist.
After three years of thinking I got this, I finally accepted that I don’t and in order to have closure I needed to reopen wounds and memories. It was honestly the best decision I have ever made. I have been in therapy for eight months and although it will never change what happened to me, it has allowed me to see the strong woman I am today and to understand the paths that were taken and the paths I need to take for the future. – Jackie Carter
Have you been wondering if you should seek psychosocial support after your cancer diagnosis? Click here to learn more.