I no longer have moments where I can ‘forget’ I had breast cancer. I’ve never bounced back after all my treatments and many surgeries. My body continues to deteriorate instead of growing stronger. The physical pain continues to increase instead of decrease. The skin issues on my face, neck and chest continue to flare up.
This can’t be my permanent quality of life, can it?
I’m plagued by Survivor’s Guilt but also plagued by Survivor’s Envy. How is that possible?
I see others who I met during the start of my cancer path and see how well they bounced back afterward. I see those starting families, getting better jobs or continuing to kick ass at their current job, dating, getting engaged and married, working out and just looking fabulous.
Am I seeing only what they want others to see? Are they really struggling privately? Is it a show for the masses because social media never shows the whole story?
Then I get mad at myself because I know that other warriors are suffering in many ways post treatment or experiencing recurrence and metastasis, but don’t reveal it on social media.
My reality is I no longer have the strength to mask the physical and emotional pain. My quality of life plain sucks. This isn’t a pity party. I’ve tried to push through the physical pain. I get told to just exercise and will feel better. Well, all that movement is actually causing more inflammation and severe pain. My weight is going back up because the pain has become excruciating to the point of almost debilitating most days. It makes exercising and just moving incredibly hard and painful.
I just want to feel better.
I want to have energy.
I want to not feel envious of those survivors who are truly enjoying life. They’ve been through hell and back, too.
For me, my hell continues. The more intense the pain, the harder it is to manage other life stresses. It has increased my anxiety level to the point where I’m waking up nauseous each morning. My sleep is off cycle again.
I underestimated the effects of being medically induced into menopause, becoming officially barren and zero sex drive. How can I even think about dating when I feel and look like crap?
I’m having a tough time igniting my spark and passion. I’m so worn out from working and dealing with the office nonsense that I can barely write or do what I need to do to press forward.
I feel guilty for being envious of other survivors. I feel like October or PINKtober brings out the Grinch in me.
I want to celebrate my life, but is this really a life when I’m single and can’t date? When the pain is so debilitating that I cry out in agony and only my loving cat Nathan can hear me? When I’m so fatigued that I can barely do the laundry, vacuum and dust or make dinner?
For me, life post cancer has its many ups and downs. It seems these days are more down because the constant pain and fatigue is tearing down my defenses.
I fought so hard to try and not die from this. It’s not all smiles, pink tutus and walks. It’s shocking, stressful, utterly painful and exhausting to pretend I’m okay because I look healthy.
Until next time,
10 thoughts on “Survivor’s Envy”
You have spoken aloud for many of us who are unable to verbalize our feelings. Thank you!
Thank YOU for taking the time to read my blog. It can be a lonely path. Know you’re NOT alone, and I will keep advocating and shedding light on the aftermath of cancer. Xoxo, fellow warrior
It sounds like you may be suffering from clinical depression. That would be a normal response to having no hormones. Depression causes fatigue and body pain as well as depressed mood. Please see a doctor with these complaints. This is no way to live life. There is no shame in getting help. Prayers for your complete recovery, both physical and emotional. I am a survivor too. I finished chemo last October, had a bilateral mastectomy in December and finished radiation in April of this year. I have to take Tamoxifen, so I also have no hormones remaining. Hugs to you. This is a battle in every way and you are a warrior!!!
This is not clinical depression. This is chronic and intense pain to the point I can barely function. I’m already professionally treated for depression and anxiety. This is bigger than that. This is about the constant advocating for myself to be heard because this amount of pain for my age is NOT normal. The fatigue is spilling over into all aspects of my life because no one knows what the root cause of it is. Pain can’t be fully managed without knowing the cause. Thank you for reading my blog post today. Xoxo, fellow warrior
Sending you so much love and hugs. I totally understand the guilt/envy feeling.
Wish I lived closer to you. I’m 4yrs from diagnosis and fought the instant menopause – it definitely does not help.
I agree though you should see a doctor in case you do have depression.
Thank you for reading my blog post today. This is not depression. I’m already professionally treated for that. This is chronic pain that is wearing me down. This is possibly something autoimmune. I’ve been advocating for myself for a year about this pain not being normal. I will see a specialist on 11/5 because this isn’t depression or Fibromyalgia – more to this story. Xoxo, fellow warrior
Or… it could just be too much pain, post-cancer fatigue (it’s a very real thing, please look it up in the medical literature) and side/late effects happening all at once when our peers are moving on with their lives. In the early 2000s, I was told by a social worker at my hospital that I “should seek psychiatric help” for my hemorrhagic cystitis and radiation enteritis because I sounded angry that no one at the hospital was taking my issues seriously. I was suffering and told to just suck it up and deal with it, or go see a psychiatrist. For a bleeding bladder. And a worn-out radiated colon problem. I needed a urologist and a gastroenterologist, plus a late effects specialist who didn’t dismiss my physical late effects of cancer as just “you’re depressed.” Finding a medical doctor who is knowledgeable in young adult cancer survivor issues is a godsend. Quality of life is a huge part of our lives and we should be angry and upset if they are stolen from us. And we should be able to fight for our quality of life without being labeled as “depressed” and told to seek help for depression when the manifestations are very real physical problems from a very real medical problem.
I just walked through my door and read your comment yelling “Alleluia, someone gets what I’m saying!!!” I’m constantly advocating for myself and have been for the past year after being told, “give your body time to heal.” I know this deep pain is NOT right and it’s compounded with all the “normal” stresses of life. I already see a psychiatrist and therapist and on Lexapro. This is bigger than that. Thank YOU for seeing that, too. We shouldn’t have to keep pushing to be heard after all we’ve physically suffered thus far. Reach out anytime because I totally get it. Xoxo, my fellow warrior!
I just want to reach out and hug you right now!! Yes! The normal stresses of life just seem insurmountable when coupled with all of the physical ailments that we shouldn’t be dealing with at our ages! I’m 44 now, and in full-blown menopause from chemo and pelvic radiation I had when I was 15. No one ever told me that “hot flashes” would come on every 30-60 seconds and be promptly followed by chills, as if I had a never-ending flu. Night sweats soaked my cotton nightshirt and sheets, having to get up and change in the middle of the night, several nights a week. Seven years of this and I fought with every fiber of my being to be put on HRT just to be able to breathe and sleep comfortably. No one else around me was dealing with menopause at 37, so I had to go online to find other survivors who could give me advice and help, because my sisters and friends, and even my mom, weren’t able to relate to what I was going through at this age. I watched a documentary called “Hot Flash Havoc” on PBS and recorded a clip to take to my doctor. I cried to my nurse on the phone during a break at work that I’ll take the risks of HRT to be able to have quality of life after living through years of suffering. She’s been my nurse since I was 16, so she knows me well and knows how important quality of life is to me. If the physical problems are properly acknowledged and dealt with, and our pain and suffering diminishes as a result, the emotional upset will also diminish. While I’m still stressed out from life’s problems (work, a long commute, daily grind), there’s a whole suffering layer that’s been removed now that my leg pain is controlled and I’m not fighting hot flash/freezing cycles every few minutes. I hope you are able to find a doctor to take your symptoms seriously, and please know you are not alone!! xoxo Carolyn
I was at my breaking point not all that long ago. After the tamoxifen/Effexor induced hell, I had my ovaries removed. Then tried all the AI medications. I got kicked out of physical therapy and bounced to pain management because we couldn’t keep ahead of the atrophy. My oncologist and I came to the decision that in order to live my life, which is what I fought for in the first place, I would need to discontinue my hormonal treatment. My risk of recurrence is now at 63% and I am watched more closely. We are keeping our eyes peeled for new treatments and clinical trials and hoping for NED to continue. I still have some unresolved side effects that decided they liked me. Life is better, not easy but better. I have times when I am able to go out and live and times when I must reserve my energy and regroup. Learning curve but much better balance.