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Cancer changes everything! anyone that kept living normal?

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Maybe I just need to vent or maybe I'm just mad!

But I feel like cancer has changed everything!!! I look to see if a lotion contains hormones, I am terrified to have a few glasses of wine, I'm scared to eat certain foods for fear of feeding the cancer. And trust me I ate healthy before cancer, I was never a big drinker, and tried to use good cosmetics and lotions!!

I feel like I research everything I do! I have lost all freedom. I spend my days lately planning around Drs appointments and getting ready for chemo. Going to pick out wigs, microblading my eyebrows, fearful of dying. Had some crazy lady tell me last week not to do chemo or I would for sure die.

All of this just stinks and I know everyone here completely understands where I'm coming from. That is why I feel safe to vent here.

If you have advice or think I'm over thinking things please please tell me. I feel like I'm losing my mind. Maybe it is just part of the process of being diagnosed. I don't know. But whew. I sure could use some people that can talk me down off this imaginary ledge I feel like I'm on. I feel like if I do one thing wrong I'm going to make it worse and die.

I know these thoughts are probably irrational. But I also know I'm probably not the only one that has had them.

Thank you all in advance for letting me vent!!!!

I truly love it here. I feels safe.

Comments

  • lw422
    lw422 Member Posts: 1,403
    edited May 2021
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    Yes, I often feel that cancer has hijacked my life and all I do is stuff I DON'T WANT to do. However I don't get nuts about my diet; I just carry on and eat what I can during chemo. My MO told me he didn't want me to lose any weight so if all I can eat is ice cream, then have the ice cream. I also don't bother worrying about my creams, lotions, etc. Why add stress to an already stressful situation?

    When I lost my hair, I cried for days about "cancer taking everything from me" like a big baby. I still have my wonderful family and everything that's truly important, so obviously cancer ISN'T taking everything away. I suppose it's all a matter of perspective. All of us have meltdowns and go through tough times with this crap, but we just have to hang in there and hope that it's temporary.

    I don't believe that anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis comes out of it unscathed; we are all changed by cancer forever.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,933
    edited May 2021
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    Irrational? Maybe a little but you are still very, very recently diagnosed. Don’t be so hard on yourself. One thing that helped me was to understand that despite how I organized and planned my life there were never any guarantees. We sometimes forget that we cannot and do not have control over every aspect of our lives.

    I will say that I am not a proponent of examining everything that goes into your mouth or on your skin. We all do the best we can but I for one can’t get bogged down in that kind of micromanaged life. Additionally, while a healthy diet and lifestyle are good for all of us as you noted, it’s a guarantee of nothing! So please allow yourself some smiles and some pleasure because that’s what living is about. Most of all, time and it’s passage will see you settle into an calmer path. The beginning of a bc dx is just plain hard! And if you need help please find a therapist and consider meds. It has helped so many of us. Take care

  • alicebastable
    alicebastable Member Posts: 1,945
    edited May 2021
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    Does cancer change a person? Sure, but depending on the type and stage, it has more of an impact on some people than others. I didn't have chemo so in some ways I got off easy, but I've had other cancers so it probably gets into my headspace in a strange way - I may not worry as much about recurrence, but I wonder what the next cancer will be. And my least scary cancer, basal cell, resulted in one of my largest surgeries with a pretty visible and annoying (tingling) facial scar, so that reminder is with me every day. But my life was also impacted by my hip replacement and my back surgery and at the time, they were much harder to go through than the lumpectomy - and with my rotten joints, I will inevitably have more joint replacements, plus I have other health issues that put a What If and colorful question marks over my head. I do think how you're reacting now, with a fresh diagnosis and the emotions that brings, will be different later on when the immediate surgery and treatments are done. The cancer thoughts will always be there, but usually not as intense (unless you let them be), and not as constant, and there will be times that you won't think about it.

  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited May 2021
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    So here's the thing: I think cancer changes things and it should. It is a serious illness and it will demand time and attention and some pain and depending where you are, some money, and it will be a huge inconvenient thing in your life, esp while you are in active treatment.

    But other things don't have to change. You don't have to change who you are, you don't have to change what you do. You don't have to buy wigs or microblade or talk to anyone or explain things to anyone, or anything. You just have to show up to treatments, take your meds, eat & sleep. Those are the *musts*. Everything else is optional.

    I think stripping down to the *musts* and then adding back the *wants* (& making sure they're what you want, not what you think you need to do or someone expects you to do), then it just becomes a life again that you feel a bit more comfortable in.

    And things do settle down as time goes on. The early days & weeks are just a relentless whirlwind of appointments and conversations and frightened thoughts. But it gets better.

  • ShetlandPony
    ShetlandPony Member Posts: 3,063
    edited May 2021
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    LOJ, I totally get that feeling "if I do one thing wrong I will die". I think there is a struggle to find control in the madness. It's a little tricky because taking good care of ourselves can make us healthier, and yet as others have said, there are no guarantees. What helps me is to remind myself that tweaking these lifestyle things like diet, exercise, and sleep does not have to happen all at once, and you do not have to be perfect to get benefit. A physician once told me that after his heart attack he adopted a scheme where he would eat healthy Monday-Friday, and eat what he wanted on the weekend. This kind of 80/20 idea has been helpful to me in saying no to stress-inducing perfectionism. So maybe one week you decide on and purchase some bottles of a special drink to take to gatherings as an alternative to alcohol. (Mine is a natural fizzy fresh ginger drink.) Maybe the next week you find a lipstick with ingredients you trust. You don't have to overhaul the whole makeup kit at once. The following week you decide to take an evening walk two out of seven days. Maybe you can work up to six days per week from there, over the course of a couple months. (Notice we do not go to expecting seven days a week!) Small steps instead of overhauling everything at once.

    This brings me to the second point, which is in line with some of moth's advice above. When you are in the crisis of new or intense treatment, focus on that and go easy on yourself about your healthy living goals. Later you can work on other things, when you have had a chance to recover some energy and catch your breath.

    As far as what to do, people focus a lot on food, but the factor with the most evidence behind it is exercise! And remember that lowering stress, increasing social connection, and finding meaning are just as important. The mind and body are connected, so if you are stressing out over your dinner, that's not great. This is to give you permission to relax!

    You are doing fine, LOJ. You are handling it. All normal reactions.

  • ShetlandPony
    ShetlandPony Member Posts: 3,063
    edited May 2021
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    Oh, one more thing. I have made it so some of the changes cancer made were good ones. Or rather, cancer prompted me to make changes that increase my happiness. When I was first diagnosed I said to myself, Ok I am no longer going to run myself into the ground. And I am going to make time for a hobby for myself. So as soon as I finished radiation, I went and found that dance class I had thought about for years, and found a new passion for this dance form that has brought me joy for years. I decided to let some chores go and spend my first hour of the day in my garden (mental and physical health there). I treat myself to nice things more than I did before cancer. For example, recently I decided I deserved to spend a day shopping online for new skin care and makeup, to make myself feel cared for and pretty in spite of the ravages of treatment. (PM me if you want the name for the "clean beauty" store I found. They've done the work for us!)

    But I did these things when I had a break and was not feeling too tired and strung out. There are times all I do is focus on eating and resting.

  • elderberry
    elderberry Member Posts: 1,065
    edited May 2021
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    LoverofJesus: What you are going through is normal. Yes, it makes you an emotional wreck. Your life has been upended. I know that a few months into treatment I would see my reflection in the mirror and I would think "Who is that person?" Bald head, rash on the face, big lump on my chest where the port was put. Life does go on and things settle - even the routine of endless appointment for scans, treatments etc. You are still you.

    I do have those days where I wonder if I ate too much tofu for estrogen levels. I wonder if I need more kale, less cheese. It can be crazy making. I get tired of people asking me when treatment will end and I have to save "Never" and explain things. Most days are just normal days for me now. I look forward to everyone I know and love having been vaccinated and we can get together to laugh, love, LIVE. If you are suffering anxiety - ask for meds. If you have insomnia - ask for meds. It is okay to do that and if it helps you get through the days then please do it. I asked my MO if I could have the occasional glass of wine and he said "Of course, why do you think we are doing all of this?. So you can enjoy life" Don't spend a second longer on worrying if your deodorant caused your cancer or if your shampoo isn't GMO . It will get better.

  • loverofjesus
    loverofjesus Member Posts: 174
    edited May 2021
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    Thank you everyone for the advice!!! It is all helpful. I asked my oncologist about having a few drinks on weekends and he said it’s fine. But I’m still scared.
    Does anyone still have drinks or have all of you just stopped altogether? Like I said my dr said it won’t kill me and it’s ok. But I would like to know what everyone does. My dr has not had breast cancer. If you know what I mean.

  • ShetlandPony
    ShetlandPony Member Posts: 3,063
    edited May 2021
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    You mentioned all the medical appointments that take over your life. Even there, you can make them work for you. Enjoy chatting with any people you meet on appointment day. Bring music or some other entertainment you like to the chemo room. And try to get the schedulers to work with you on scheduling in a way that minimizes the impact on your real life.

    There are a lot of threads here where people debate the alcohol question.

  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited May 2021
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    I don't drink alcohol at all. There are a number of threads on this so do search them out if you're wanting to read more about it. my thinking is alcohol is a known carcinogen & I don't need any more of that, thank you. Otoh, radiation is also a carcinogen and I have had that because I think the benefits outweigh the risks. I don't really see any benefit to alcohol so it's all risk for me but this is a calculation we all have to make.

    Btw, not all doctors make the recommendation that small amounts are ok. I know several doctors who do tell their pts that they recommend zero alcohol so this is one area where I think we're sort of on our own because drs recommendations are unreliable here (& I think largely driven by personal biases)


  • lw422
    lw422 Member Posts: 1,403
    edited May 2021
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    When I was on Taxol, I felt pretty much OK so I'd have an occasional beer with Mexican food or whatever. Then I read someone's post that said they preferred not to drink because their poor liver is already working overtime with all the chemo drugs, so that resonated with me and I haven't been tempted by alcohol since.

    Now that I'm on AC, I feel so crummy and my tastebuds are wonk... so beer would probably taste gross anyway.

  • olma61
    olma61 Member Posts: 1,025
    edited May 2021
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    Yes, the diagnosis and beginning treatment stage can get our head spinning but as others have said, it does get better. You do not have to do everything perfectly or all at once. Going on nice long walks and other exercise helps me with stress relief. Anything physical, like a good strenuous housecleaning if you’re up to it, can help you refocus and revitalize.

    About alcohol, my MO was totally okay with it and made a point of telling me that. I am not a big drinker anyway, but Iused to have wine at home occasionally but I cut that down to only drinking once or twice a year for a special occasion. Last drink was a glass of wine last September on the plane going to my sons wedding.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,933
    edited May 2021
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    Ah, drinking... I have never been much of a drinker and am a real lightweight when I do drink. I might, maybe, have a glass of wine once a month or so and don’t give its second thought! That is what I’m comfortable with. You need to find a balance between trying to control every aspect of your diet/lifestyle and personal enjoyment. If having a drink occasionally makes you happy and relaxed I say go for it but not if it makes you stress out and worry. So regardless of what any of us do, please do what you are comfortable with! Take care

  • elderberry
    elderberry Member Posts: 1,065
    edited May 2021
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    To All: Before my DX I enjoyed a glass of wine - a day. I am now down to about one a month. I enjoy the conviviality of social drinking but not doing in my liver is more important. I might be more cavalier if the mets were just in my bones. But - dang - I do enjoy a really cold martini!! Fond memories?

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,933
    edited May 2021
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    Cavalier? Interesting word choice! Yes, I only have bone mets but I drink such small quantities of alcohol (don’t think I’ve had a drink in a month or two) that I feel it would make little difference regardless of where my mets are. For me that occasional drink, usually in a happy social setting, makes me feel happy and happiness is good medicine. ruthbru and I met a few years ago and bonded over gin martinis. Will that shorten my life? Maybe but meeting ruthbru and developing a friendship with her will be worth the sacrifice. We all have to make a multitude of choices and decisions when it comes to bc. Moreimportantly, we need to be comfortable with our decisions. 10 years out from a stage IV dx, with no progression, and I remain comfortable with my choices.

  • lillyishere
    lillyishere Member Posts: 773
    edited June 2021
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    LoverofJesus, someone told me that on the first year after the diagnose, you'll have the black cloud and then it gets better. It gave me hope and I do believe it is true. I guess we humans learn to adjust to change and we find a way to balance the disease and life by giving life priority. Of course, any new pain makes me jump with fear but I got used to these feelings too. I have stopped the alcohol. Some doctors told me to stop and others said no, however, I feel that alcohol interferes with the medication I am taking and it makes me feel worst. Because of the medication I am taking it makes me feel tired and I do way less now. I haven't changed my food or cosmetics because I was already going for organic versions.

  • tb90
    tb90 Member Posts: 281
    edited June 2021
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    Lover, I was totally where you are now 7 years ago. Not a minute of the day went by without cancer on my mind. Then I researched everything and tried to be “perfect”. I lost weight, quit drinking, ate everything healthy, cut out all possible risk factors including lavender (my favourite) and exercised daily. I read every label and scrutinized every move I made, everything I put into my mouth and everything I cleaned with. After three years of living in fear, I crashed into a severe depression.

    I recovered gradually and reintroduced most forbidden items, but in moderation. I am still healthier, but enjoy wine, lavender and red meat. I lost myself and lost happiness and joy. I know I drink too much wine, but other risk factors weigh even higher. Like being female and having breasts. Weight and lack of exercise are unpopular to emphasize as risk factors on these boards so I am adding wine. I do joke that if you run with your cocktail you should break even. Just try to relax a bit and enjoy your life. I wasn’t able to until I broke. It takes time. You will eventually find your balance. But if we knew for certain why we are all here, then they could stop this. We don’t.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,933
    edited June 2021
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    TB90,

    Moderation says it all! When I tried a compulsively clean lifestyle my younger dd kind of acted like my food monitor. That just led to fights which led to unhappiness. So moderation it is

  • summerangel
    summerangel Member Posts: 182
    edited June 2021
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    Things do get better over time. I didn't freak out very much even early on, but then I had low-grade cancer and didn't need chemo or radiation so it wasn't as traumatic for me as it is for many others. My life hasn't significantly changed at all, actually. I've always had a pretty good diet and I've always regularly exercised. I enjoy beer and wine and haven't given that up, and if I want fried chicken or potato chips occasionally I'll have them (those are my treats, I don't have a sweet tooth).

  • OnTarget
    OnTarget Member Posts: 124
    edited June 2021
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    I sort of sit on the other side. I feel pretty normal except for a few things. I think that I enjoy life more and I'm making a point to "do the things". I have a small worry about recurrence, so I reduced my alcohol intake and I lightly look at ingredients in my personal products. I try to do the things I like and to keep my energy up so I'm not wasting time on dumb stuff.

    Just recently I've had new breast lumps which were deemed to be fat necrosis. I was a little stressed over those, but I decided no to freak completely until I actually got bad news.

    I think that what you are feeling is very normal, although we all seem to experience different levels of freak out. I freaked out before my surgery, but as soon as that was done I calmed down a lot.

    I'm very happy and I'll be even happier once I finish this 2+ year reconstruction process!

  • claire_in_seattle
    claire_in_seattle Member Posts: 2,793
    edited June 2021
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    First of all LoverofJesus, I am so very sorry that you are on that end of chemo. I am here 12 years later to tell you that you can get through this, and that life will be good again. I drank quite a bit of wine when I was where you are now, but didn't drink during chemo as I thought that my liver had more than enough to do.

    One major post-chemo positive is that I now pay the professionals to cut my hair. Guess what, it loooks much better!

    I would recommend exercise, particularly walking, to keep your spirits up and because there is a survival benefit. I found that being able to get out and about was a lifesaver. It was most humbling one day when I was dragging and came upon a man with a walker. I realized that while I would recover and go racing around again, these days were over for him.

    I live a full and wonderful life now. Just got back from helping out my friends at a vineyard/winery. I camped out and helped with restocking wine (which flew off the shelves so lots of work/exercise, as well as helping with bottling where my job was taping up boxes and then stacking them on palates. The weather was glorious and I was able to fit in a hike. I came home with a new appreciation for my washing machine and shower.

    I can't do perfection. Not enough time in this life for that. I try to hit the high points, and then move on.

    Off now to do....guess what....a WALK. Followed by dinner with....guess what....WINE!!! Feel better. I looked at things as being that I had to get the sh*t beat out of me for about 6 months, and then I would be fine. And that is exactly what happened. Good luck! - Claire

  • saltmarsh
    saltmarsh Member Posts: 192
    edited June 2021
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    Ooof. OP, I hear you. And please take the following as just my experience and let it go if it does not help you.

    So, perhaps this is the silver lining in having watched my mom be diagnosed with, live with, and later die from, cancer: I learned how I didn't want to be if it was ever me.

    My mom definitely was terrified about every little thing for months...and then, for years! She lived for five relatively healthy years after her diagnosis, before her decline and death -- but those years were fraught with stress over every little thing, and resentment at people who didn't help her achieve the levels of healthy living she aspired to. She tried to live macrobiotically, she eschewed beauty products, she obsessed over the purity or toxicity levels of everything and every space. And while I think she benefited from macrobiotics, and I, too, tend to avoid stuff with chemicals that are iffy, and I am very interested in having clean air and water, it was too much. It was super, super stressful -- for her, and for anyone around her! And she wasn't happy!

    So here I am, seven years after her death, and I knew going into this that I couldn't afford to make myself crazy, and I can't afford to alienate my husband and stress out my kid. I went into this thinking, "I'm gonna do my best. I'm gonna do my best without driving us all crazy, and if that's not enough, then it's not enough, but I refuse to live the rest of whatever life I have as unhappy and stressed out as she was."

    That's where I'm at. YMMV. I hope you can find ways forward that work for you so you feel less trapped or restricted!

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,933
    edited June 2021
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    salt marsh,

    Wonderful post! I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I lasted about 5-6 weeks on the hyper vigilant diet/exercise/lifestyle regimen. I argued with family members and was very unhappy! I have spent the intervening years on no protocols or regimens nor any special lifestyle. I always had a healthy diet and lifestyle (not compulsive however) and for me that means eating well most of the time and thoroughly enjoying sweets or other “bad” things when I want. Since my brief attempt at a restricted diet ended I am happy and stress free. Everyone around me is happy and stress free and whether I live for 10 more days or 10 more years I will have lived that time with joy.

  • claire_in_seattle
    claire_in_seattle Member Posts: 2,793
    edited June 2021
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    Yes, it truly is about living with joy! A quality all-too-frequently overlooked.

    About to turn in. I think that i am finally getting the message that living well is truly the best revenge.

    Off to bed as a busy week awaits. But blissed out from celebrating the accomplishments of last week plus yesterday's cycling adventure.

    In no way am I willing to live a diminished lifestyle. Blech!!! - Claire