One of the most frightening aspects of dealing with life after cancer is the fear that the cancer will come back. Fear of metastasis is common among not only breast cancer survivors, but survivors of cancer of all types and degrees.
When I was first diagnosed in 2009, I was terrified that the cancer beast was going to come back and get me. Even though I made significant changes to my lifestyle and had surgery to remove the tumor in my breast, there was a period of time where I felt terrified that every ache, every pain, every blemish or itch on my skin was a metastasis that was spreading through my body with the goal of taking me down.
When I went for my regular screenings, it was always an anxious time in my household awaiting the results. It was such a huge relief when diagnostic testing came back clean. It took over 5 years after my initial diagnosis before I felt more at ease about having my screenings. And, about that long until I was feeling like a pain somewhere, anywhere in my body was not related to cancer. If you are having these fears, you are not alone.
While PTSD is relatively low among survivors of breast cancer, anxiety and fear of its return is very common. Studies have found that PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is usually followed by PTG (post traumatic growth) after treatment has been administered. But the fear of metastasis can linger for quite a while.
Since my initial diagnosis, I have had two local recurrences. With each recurrence, I actually felt more confident about my prognosis and the prospect that my disease was not going to metastasize. I talk more about this in my book, Metamorphosis. Based on the specifics of my recurrences, I became more comfortable with my body’s ability to shield me. You do gain confidence as you learn to navigate cancer and as you alter your lifestyle to manage the disease. I also feel that adopting a yoga practice has helped me get out of my head and calm down my fears. Each of us needs to find the path to best navigate our disease that fits our lives and level of comfort. My advice is that whatever the path you may choose, be comfortable with it and confident in it. Our minds are powerful and our attitude does have a hand in our outcome!
The following resources that I have gathered below are just a few that I thought are helpful. It is by no means exhaustive. I hope that you find the contents useful. Let me know what you think in comments. The links below are fluid so if there is something you feel is missing or should be updated, please let me know!
Articles Relating to Living in Fear of Metastasis
Six Tips for Managing Fear of Cancer Recurrence
Coping with Fear of Recurrence
Cancer-Related Post Traumatic Stress
Living in Fear: Cancer Recurrence
Fear of Cancer Recurrence: Mind-Body Tools Offer Hope
Fear of Cancer Recurrence is Common, But Oncologists Can Help
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Fear of Recurrence Common Among Breast Cancer Survivors
Will My Cancer Come Back?: Dealing With Fears of Recurrence
Resources To Help Deal With Fear of Metastasis
The best cancer care starts with the best cancer information. With nearly 45,000 members who are leaders in advancing cancer care, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians. ASCO’s patient information website — Cancer.Net (www.cancer.net) — brings the expertise and resources of ASCO to people living with cancer and those who care for and care about them. Well-informed patients are their own best advocates and invaluable partners for physicians. Cancer.Net provides timely, comprehensive information to help patients and families make informed health care decisions. Cancer.Net is supported by Conquer Cancer ® The ASCO Foundation.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training.
Launched in 2002 for patients with cancer, survivors and their caregivers, CURE® Media Group’s flagship magazine and online resource curetoday.com provide access to leading resources and information that serve as a guide to every stage of the cancer experience. In 2014, MJH Life Sciences™ acquired Cure Media Group, and since then our award-winning editorial and creative teams deliver Cancer Updates, Research, and Education to connect the cancer community and empower individual journeys.
Breastcancer.org is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and community to those touched by this disease.
Also, a great resource is the Community forums on BreastCancer.org. Here, you can search just about any breast cancer related topic and find a thread you can join in on to ask questions, share experiences and learn about topics. You can also start your own thread to ask questions about a particular point of concern or interest. I find this resource extremely useful.
Breast Cancer Network Australia
Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation. For the past 22 years, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that all Australians who are affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support.
This site also has and online community with forums where you can connect with other breast cancer patients and survivors.
A comprehensive resource relating to all types of cancer including current studies and research findings.
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Comprehensive Resource for all things relating to breast cancer.
Take a look at my article relating to life after loss of a breast in the resources section of HealthTastesGood.com.