Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Battle goes on

Update from Dianne's husband Pat

This week I was searching the web for information about life after breast cancer to better understand how I could help Dianne. I found an paper from the Journal of Clinical Oncology by Hester Hill Schnipper titled Life After Breast Cancer (and yes, this is the type of reading you do once cancer enters your life). The introduction to the paper really struck me as to what is going on in Dianne's life, and mine, at this time:

SHRUGGING OFF her mink coat, Meredith Powers settled into the
comfortable chair in my office. A 40-year-old single woman, she had completed her active treatment for stage II breast cancer 3 months earlier. Through the months of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, she had maintained most of her normal life routines and insisted that breast cancer was a disruption that could be managed. To her astonishment, she now found herself overwhelmed with emotions and unable to function. She called her medical oncologist when she could barely get out of bed in the morning and found herself weeping uncontrollably. As she explained that she had never before felt so out of control and that she was "baffled" by her feelings, she began to cry.

"Am I crazy?" she asked me.

As we began to talk, it was clear that she was struggling with many problems that were new to her and that were directly related to her diagnosis and treatment. She was exhausted and very frustrated with her diminished level of energy. She was angry with many of her friends and worried about being a burden to her family. She was unhappy with her body and the changes due to her cancer; she hated waiting for her hair to grow and felt "fat and ugly." She worried about her performance at work and her limited options considering a career move. She wanted her old life back and was starting to understand that was impossible.

Beside not having a mink coat, and being married instead of single, much of this story describes what Dianne has been feeling since the end of active cancer treatment (December 08). The paper goes on to say:

The crisis of breast cancer does not abate with the final chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Indeed, in many ways, the real crisis is just beginning. How do you learn to live with the sword of Damocles ever dangling? How do you come to terms with the changes in your body as well as the changes in your perspective? How do you manage the changed relationships and the intense emotions that continue into the future? These are questions with which the patient will have to struggle, as life is slowly reclaimed. Recognizing that there are existential issues that must be examined by each of us in our own hearts, there are predictable problems in many other areas that can be addressed by caregivers...The challenges of survivorship are many. More than anything else, it is the searing recognition of mortality that changes everything. From this moment forward, all of life will be viewed through a double lens as we appreciate the possibilities of both a long life and a greatly abbreviated one. This dual view may actually, over time, enrich our lives. We make a conscious and willing choice, each of us living with cancer, to go on, to take and to appreciate the darkness as well as the sunlight. We hold dear the night as well as the morning.

This is how Dianne is doing. This is how we are doing. If you want to learn more about life after breast cancer, you can read the full article at:

Please continue to pray for our family, the battle is not over.


  1. Beautiful article, thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate the support you are to Diane, seeking answers for all the questions that come up with cancer. I think initially we all are consumed with the physical battle and when that part is subsided, the emotional part rears its ugly head. I think we all need that assurance that we aren't crazy and we aren't alone. As Rivka stated from the beginning, "together we are strong." Praying for healing physically, emotionally and spiritually. Thanks again for a wonderful post.

  2. After 8 years I am still dealing with the emotional side of breast cancer, at times I wish I had of gone with reconstructive surgery as I don't like having only one breast, confidence ebbs and flows but always am thankful for each how you are supporting Dianne, you are such a blessing. Praying you are doing well.......:-) Hugs

  3. Pat -- Thank you for the update. Those feelings are certainly familiar to us all.

    My doctor is constantly emphasizing that cancer is a family illness. It affects everyone who lives with us and everyone who loves us.

    It is such a blessing to have a partner who is so involved and supportive!

  4. Bernie,
    I know how you feel. I lived without (breasts) for a year and a half. I am glad I had the reconstruction. If I had it all to do again I would have gone with immediate reconstruction. I am not usually overly concerned with my looks - I don't even wear makeup - but it made such a difference having the surgery. It helped me to move on and feel so much better about myself.

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone!


  5. I highly recommend the book Living Well Beyond Breast Cancer: A Survivor's Guide for When Treatment Ends and the Rest of Your Life Begins by Marisa Weiss and Ellen Weiss.

    It really helped me.