Jennifer often has occasion to visit with other survivors and women in treatment. She gains wisdom, understanding, and compassion from her time with the Sisterhood. Here Jennifer shares her thoughts about those interactions.
Everyone has a story. I often hear women describe their experience in the context of their treatment plan. The spectrum ranges from a single procedure to long and complicated treatment. Regardless of the differences, there are several commonalities.
The news is almost always a gut-punch. Even if a woman thinks she's doomed by her family history, there is no preparation for the moment that the doctor says, "You have cancer."
A cancer diagnosis affects more than just the patient. Family, friends, and entire communities can be shaken by the traumatic news.
Questions flood a woman's soul like, "How will I take care of my family," "Will I have to have chemo," "Will I lose my hair," and, "How will I tell my children?" Not all of those questions can be answered immediately, and the wait time can feel long and scary.
Regardless of the protocol used to remove the cancer and reduce the possibility of its return, fear often takes up residence in the patient's heart and mind about the cancer coming back.
Women are often told that reaching the five-year mark of being cancer-free means that the likelihood of a recurrence is significantly reduced. Doctors share that statistic as a fact in patient education, and I'm sure they think it will generate hope as survivors rack up years of cancer-free survivorship.
It's common for the Sisterhood to celebrate reaching that milestone. And Sisters collectively hold their breath for every bump and tickle that shows up within that five years fearing that the cancer has returned. As a survivor myself, I am surprised that I continue to carry that fear even though I am past the five-year mark.
The PA at my oncologist's office is warm and compassionate. She gave me the gift of the advice to "embrace the fear." She said I don't have to be hard on myself for being afraid, and that gave me courage to ask about anything that concerns me.