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Nov 13, 2013 03:55PM
Oh my, several things articulated here that really hit home for me. Feeling violated by the biopsies....actually I was completely traumatized by the biopsies, even to the point that now just walking into that hospital or into my surgeon's office (where the two different biopsies were done) increases my heart rate, gives me shaky hands, and a general feeling of doom.
And me too...I'm not afraid of dying, not really, but I am afraid of being afraid when I die, if that makes any sense.
I went through some bad bad days, and I don't doubt that I'll have more bad days, but for now, I'm in a good...no, a great...place.
After my biopsies when I started having panic attacks, and even when I wasn't freaking out I was generally miserable--and I know I drove my poor husband nuts what with being so easily upset, so weepy, so prone to being irritable and snapping at him, which I never do---my surgeon realized what was happening and gave me Ativan for the time leading up to, and directly after, my double mastectomy. I found that I didn't need anywhere near the high dose he gave me; that I could cut them in half, take half of one in the day time and stay on a fairly even keel---not happy, you understand, but able to deal with the situation without turning into a complete basket case.
I also found that I could take half of one near bedtime and really SLEEP....sleep deeply, and restfully, and dreamlessly, and I do believe that that might have saved my sanity. Sleep is important.
Afterwards, as I was recovering from the surgery (and mind you, I'm only 4 weeks out from that) I stopped the Ativan, but soon found that anxiety was taking over my life again. I truly could not sleep for more than 2 hours at a time, and the moment I'd wake up I was aware of having had surgery--being Myrtle Turtle (lol) stuck on my back, uncomfortable, scared, depressed. Once I stopped taking the pain meds from the surgery, the anxiety came back full force; panic attacks out of nowhere, and constant, constant, hopeless depression, and I tried at all times to hold it in as much as possible, because I was afraid---I knew--that if I let any of it out, it would ALL come out, uncontrollably.... I had actually become extremely anxious about being anxious. Sounds silly, but there it was. It wasn't even about the cancer anymore, but about not being able to get a handle on my own thoughts and feelings.
My PCP then put me on Klonopin. Just half a milligram, twice a day, IF needed.
Now let me take a moment to say that I'm a person who has always avoided any drugs unless absolutely necessary. I take naps and showers to try and combat headaches before I ever even consider an ibuprofen or tylenol, so I obviously was in a REALLY bad place to agree that these anti-anxiety drugs were something I wanted/needed to be taking. I read about side effects, I read about possibility of dependence, and I came to the conclusion that what I needed to worry about now, was NOW----healing, fighting this cancer, getting through treatment, and learning to accept that this could, and indeed HAD happened to me. TO ME. I needed to be able to function.
The first day after I started on the Klonopin I finally just cried. And I cried all day long. And I told my husband to LET me cry, because now, finally, I could cry and NOT have it turn into an uncontrollable crying jag, I could cry and not have it just spiral out of control. I finally let my mind really start to wrap itself around what was happening. I cried for the loss of my breasts (which I honestly never liked much anyway, lol.) I cried because my life had been so happy and so perfect right up until the moment of that first biopsy and I cried because I was afraid life would never be that happy again. I cried because of all the fear and upset this was causing my beloved husband, mother, and younger brother. I even cried over a couple of sappy commercials. And managed to laugh at myself for doing so. :)
It felt like my soul had taken a long, much-needed shower. My husband checked his watch and gave me a hug every hour (lol) and told me he loved me and held me some and left me alone some, and he let me cry, and never once told me to not cry. Bless him, he "got it." He understood.
Late that night the tears had stopped and I made some snarky but funny comment about something someone on TV said and my husband said "THERE you are! You're back, and God, I've missed you so much!" And he meant it, and he was right. I was back. I had ME again.
That was two weeks ago. I have moments of fear, but they are rational. I have lots of good moments ---hours even--when I don't even really think about cancer. I send my husband "Achievement Unlocked!" e-mails when I do something I haven't been able to do since surgery like putting coffee cups on the TOP shelf with my left hand (the one that now has no nodes.) I had fun hanging out with my family this past Saturday night. I realized that even now, I would not trade lives with anyone I know, and that I am still, actually, the happiest person I know. Cancer did not take that away from me after all, even though, for a while there, I thought it had.
I started out taking the Klonopin twice a day as originally prescribed, religiously, but have, over the past few days, found that I can go longer and longer each day before I feel like I'm having that jangly, tense, feeling in the pit of my stomach that signals the anxiety and dark place might be sneaking up on me. I can think about the cancer, and the changes in my life, and the road we have ahead of us, and uncertainty of my future --either with, or without, the Klonopin, and I can handle it. Pretty soon, I'll be able to get thru entire days without it or any other anti-anxiety drug. I know this, and I am content, and grateful to have it when I DO need it. It's helping me learn to cope.
I'm not saying that everyone who is having a rough time should automatically medicate it. All I'm saying is that it made a WORLD of difference for me, for NOW, and really, NOW is all we have, right? It's an option, and it's an option that should be considered, without fear, and without any shame that it means you're not "strong" enough to do this on your own. Maybe you ARE strong enough to do this on your own, but I am not ashamed to admit that I was NOT. Oh, I'd still be alive right now (I think) without it, but I wouldn't be laughing at my husband's jokes, or planning lunch with a friend on Sunday, or only "sort of" dreading the start of chemo next Monday. I have to have a bonescan this upcoming Monday and I know that there IS the possibility that that could present me with a very bad surprise that would change everything, and I am scared, but I'm not panicking, I'm not freaking out, and I'm not going to.
For some people other ways of getting through those roughest times might be better. There are lots of options for learning to cope with this awful diagnosis. I found the one that worked for me. I hope that everyone finds the one that will work for THEM. It's awful, what we're going through, but it doesn't have to be THAT awful. Talk to a doctor, like I did, let them know just how distressed you are, and let them help you. That's what they are there for.
I'm a drive-by poster, so if you want to respond to me, or ask a question, send me a PM!
9/26/2013, ILC, Left, 5cm, Stage IIIC, Grade 2, 11/22 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
10/13/2013 Lymph node removal: Left, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right
5/6/2014 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall
6/24/2014 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
9/22/2014 Femara (letrozole)