Life After Cancer

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How to return to normality after having Cancer?

I was diagnosed with Cancer in August ‘22 (at the age of 32). Also had a genetic test which came back saying I have BRCA2 gene so higher risk of other cancers. I had chemo treatment and surgery at the end of Jan ‘23 for Breast Cancer. I have felt okay (as well as can be through all of this) but got on with my everyday life. I worked throughout the whole of my treatment and it become a new norm for a couple of months - I worked Monday-Thursday and had chemo on a Friday and then chilled/ slept on a weekend. Had surgery in Jan this year for double mastectomy and reconstruction and then a month off work to recover. I am now on a phased return to work. 

I am now suddenly “crashing” and coming to terms and the sudden realisation of everything I have just gone through in the last few months. I have been feeling a bit down and not sure how to return back to normal life? Can anyone help? 

  • Hi   I’m at a similar stage as you, had breast and bowel cancer, had my ops, discovered I have lynch syndrome so more likely to get other cancers. Have just finished chemo and about to start radiotherapy. I’ve also worked all the way through ofher then the Wednesday I had my chemo! We haven’t discussed my return to the office yet but in my mind, I’m nowhere near ready. The fatigue you get with this should not be underestimated, perhaps phasing back after a month is too early? Have you discussed this with your BCN or oncologist? I think we just get on with things cos we have to and then once it’s all over, we’re left to just deal with it but in reality, I think that’s when it all hits home & mentally we’re not ready to go back to “normal” cos you’ve changed! That’s certainly my experience anyway. Maybe speak to your manager as well and say you think you need to slow down your return to work. Mental health is just as important as physical health! Xx

  • gosh that IS a lot to go through! I'm 1 year after treatment (currently 40 yr old). It has been up and down for me. First few months were quite stressful, then summer months were great, then it evened out. Mostly I hardly ever think of cancer. But the past 2 months have been hard, and I had a follow up call last week which reminded me of everything and NOW I am a bit lost again.

    I completely understand you about the difficulty of fully understanding everything, and the implications on the rest of the life. It's really hard to phathom. Torn between reading more / doing cancer support groups and avoiding the topic entirely. Not sure which is more helpful?

    I hope you have found some peace in the past couple of months and are managing better Heart

  • Hello Yulia,

    thank you for your message. I’m doing much better now thank you. I am still working, on a phased return and this is being review monthly. Doing half days at the mo and it is a nice balance and working well for me. I found having routine is good for me and being back at work has benefitted me more with my mental health. At the moment I have nice balance of work on a morning and then the afternoon is my own to chill etc. 

    I have been able to catch up and start seeing friends and family more and doing more activities. I have also been speaking with a counsellor through Macmillan which again has helped a lot, being able to talk to someone to process everything and how I move forward. 

    I hope you are doing well? 

  • That sounds like a lovely balance! There's a ton of research to show that we shouldn't work 40 hour weeks anyway, but I think when you have so much physical and mental and emotional recovery the 50/50 approach definitely works best. 

    Im so glad to hear you are doing better! Wishing you a continuos swift recovery!!!

  • I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, at 33 years old and 6 months pregnant. I had a single mastectomy last month and have now been given the all clear. I sailed through chemo, scans, etc and just got on with looking after my 2 year old and raising a newborn. Now everything is done, I just don't know how to feel. At all. I've never been particularly emotional, but I really feel I need to let everything out, and I just don't know how to do this. Talking to someone professionally seems way too scary. Any tips and tricks on how to lean into my emotions at home? 

    So glad to hear that you're working through things now and ate managing well

  • Hello, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis but that’s such positive news about the all clear. It’s an amazing moment isn’t it? You did so well managing appts, testaments and scans etc and with raising two children. You should be really proud of yourself - that’s amazing. 

    I completely understand where you are coming from with receiving the all clear and returning back to normal kind of life. It’s a bit scary isn’t it? And even with receiving the news of the all clear, the person I spoke to at Macmillan said sometimes people can find it difficult to understand as you should be happy and of course you are but then it’s the sudden realisation and thinking about it what you’ve been through - very mixed emotions.

    Do you have a good support network around you? Someone you feel you could talk to, partner, family member or friend? 
    I have a good network around me and talking to them has really helped but also speaking to a professional - someone neutral who just listens has helped me. 
    I understand that it’s a big step and scary. My first point was actually phoning Macmillan. I suddenly “crashed” and had bit of low mood. I spoke to my husband who was really good but then the next day, I phoned Macmillan and I was bit scared and unsure at first. Unsure of what to say and how and where to begin but this changed as soon as I started talking and the person on the phone asked how I was then I felt it came more naturally. Macmillan then asked if I would like to be referred to speak to a counsellor and I said yes. Again, I was a little unsure and felt at first I was wasting people time but I’ve just had my 5th session today and one left to go. It has helped me a lot to talk each week about how I’m feeling, how to process what I’ve been through and move forward. 

    Have you tried perhaps peer support groups in your area?

    I would say with your emotions at home, just be you and talk if you feel happy to about how you are feeling and if you need to laugh/ cry/ smile/ dance then go for it. 
    Do whatever helps you and makes you happy. Slight smile

    Hope this all helps? 

    There is always of course the forum on here as well.