9 years on - the good, the bad and the ugly

Have just been for my annual check-up. It’s 9 years since I was first diagnosed (at 44). I had a lumpectomy, radiotherapy and tamixofen and I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Because of my cancer, I changed my job and because of my cancer, I changed my attitude to life, met a wonderful man and finally settled down.

Yes, radiotherapy has shrunk one breast and given me chest pain and yes, I had a series of side-effects with tamoxifen but I’m here, I’m ok - and I’ve just been discharged.

So, why aren’t I jumping for joy and turning cartwheels down the street, while singing ‘Halleluh’ at the top of my voice? Cos I’m not - I feel sad, tearful - and guilty.

I know it’s just an emotion that will pass - my annual check-up always seems to bring on a raft of these feelings that i thought i was over, but I can’t really talk about it to my friends or family as they don’t understand. They think I should be delighted that I’m fine (and, of course, I am) but don’t get the tears or guilt. I’m hoping someone out there will. Are there any other survivors reading this who experience the same sort of feelings after all this time (or am I really just a whingeing, moaning old biddy who needs to count her blessings??)

Hi Jackys
Well good news that you clear 9 years on, all those % that get quoted are defo on your side. But BC is life changing and I understand how sad you feel at times… I seem to spend my days swinging from laughter to tears at drop of hat. I 1 year on this w/end and tamaxifen probably accounts for that. You need give yourself time to reflect and let emotions do whatever… but 9 years on is fantastic

Hi Jackys - I’m a ‘survivor’ (hate the word) too - a survivor of 20years but boy has that 20 years come at a price. So I do understand your lack of rejoicing at the 9yrs you have had. I suspect on your better days you look back and say ‘yes and I am still here and thankful for that’ but… and there always is one. No one reading forums like this can be unaware of how sneaky this disease is and come and bite you up the bum! The trouble is that those who have not experienced it just cannot understand that attitude. My situation of course is different to yours - for one - I have secondaries but that is another area that others just don’t get. They see me keeping relatively well and if I tell them it will eventually kill me they think I am being very pessimistic. No - I think I am realistic.

Have gone on a bit haven’t I - but I hope you get the good days too.


Lovely to read this thanks - as someone who starts chemo tomorrow, the timing of it was fab - hope and all that. I was going to say “yep” to your question - then thought that maybe not everyone would realise i was joking and didn’t want to offend. I’m sure there’ll be women on here who can identify with what you say and will answer your question in the serious way you intended it. As for me I’m just so grateful to have read it … Thanks


Hi Jackys
It was reassuring to read your post as I have been feeling exactly the same way as you. When I got the news last week that I don’t need chemo the feeling of relief was amazing, but I spent the entire night crying my eyes out and refusing telephone calls from well wishers. My OH was totally flabbergasted. But it seemed to me as if the whole nightmare of the last 3 months had descended on me again, the dx of IDC and the mx. I still can’t beieve that I’ve had an mx and the thought of it still makes me tearful. My recon makes me feel deformed but it’s still early days…
I was very curious to know what changes you have made to your life, especially you mention your attitude. I’m an extremely anxious person,and the glass is frequently not only half empty but dirty too! I’m also a perfectionist which makes me find it very difficult to cope with my job. I’m desperate to chnage my outlook on life too but don’t know how. I’m convinced my constant levels of stress contributed to my cancer. Any tips? Congrats, on getting to 9 years.

Lynn - good luck with your chemo tomorrow. I often read all the advice and support you’ve given others recently. Would like you to know I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and hope all goes well.
Annys xx

Wow, isn’t this forum fabulous? I feel so much better having read the responses posted so far - thank you.

Dawn - yes, i hate the term survivor too. i also hate the phrase ‘battling with cancer’ and my biggest pet hate is the ‘stay positive’ line that so many people come out with. I know they are trying to help but it always seems to imply that it will be your own fault if things get worse and you hadn’t managed to stay positive through it all! Sorry to hear about your secondaries: I hope you have lots of people who understand to support you, too.

Annys - please don’t blame yourself. I personally think we all doing our best to enjoy our life but some of us are just unlucky and get breast cancer: I doubt if anxiety alone is enough to give you cancer. You asked about the changes that happened in my life. After my treatment when I returned to work (about 5 months) I was offered redundancy. I knew I needed to make changes so I took it. At the time I had a fairly high-flying job at an airport (no pun intended!). I was out of work for 6 months (longer than planned) and during that time (while i was job-hunting and trying to decide what i wanted to do), I took a voluntary job in a local Cancer Research job. Somehow, all that contibuted to my relaxing (I’m a perfectionist too) and basically stopping-and-smelling-the-coffee sort of thing. It happened naturally (and gradually), once I’d left the stress of my job behind but the cancer gave me the strength to take that leap in the dark. And suddenly I had room in my life for a real relationship. At 45, I’d never been married, although had had numerous relationships. But I met my now-husband and everything just clicked into place. I doubt if it would have been so easy if i hadn’t had the cancer, hadn’t left my job and hadn’t been ‘ready’. I’ve now got a really enjoyable job and a fabulous husband - and I do believe I’ve got the cancer to thank for both. We’reall different and we all have to find our own way through this experience, but please stop blaming yourself.

And Lynn -all the very best for this next stage of your journey. Here’s hoping you’ll still be posting on this site 9 years from now (just don’t whinge!!)

Thank you all for brightening my day - women are marvellous things, aren’t we?
Jacky x

I’m about 3 1/2 years down the line from being diagnosed and I’ve worked really hard on my confidence the last 2 years. After my last annual check up I was in a very good and happy place. Then in January my SiL was suddenly diagnosed with bowel cancer after attending the local screening programme. I’m not in the least bit close to her, in fact I would say we don’t get on that well, but it’s brought everything back. I’m close to my brother and have been worried about him as he decided to take redundancy from his job at Christmas, sadly not knowing what was in the offing. He was very traumatised when I was diagnosed, and having watched my own husband when I was ill I can understand what he is going through.

Added to that, our elderly cat has been ill with recurrent cystitis for 6 weeks and in the past few days has taken a turn for the worse. It has been a very distressing weekend watching her.We have to take her for a check up tomorrow and are worried the vet will say her time has come (she’s 17). I’m finding this very upsetting and stressful and I haven’t slept well in the past few weeks. She has retreated to her pet carrier and only comes out for food and drink, plus she seems to be losing bladder control and is weeing in corners despite having a litter tray. Her body weight has halved and she doesn’t want a cuddle as she is so thin. Last night I was talking to her with tears rolling down my cheeks, I burst into tears this afternoon when I was working and I’ve asked my OH to take her basket and everything away if she has to be put to sleep as I don’t think I could bear it.

She was my true friend and companion when I was very ill as she lay on my bed and hardly left me. I’ve had her for 15 years, so as you can imagine I’m very attached to her. Poor little mite.

Oh Cherub, that’s awful for you. I have 2 cats who’ve been with me throughout the cancer journey and I dread the day anything happens to them. I don’t have children and they are a big part of my family.

Try and take comfort in knowing that you gave her a good life, that she clearly loved you as much as you love her and if your worst fears are met, allow yourself to grieve.

I wish I had some magic words of comfort…xx

Oh Cherub, you just made me cry … and I’m not even a cat person. xJacqx

I’ve decided if she has to go to sleep I’ll be with her. Our last cat Leo was put to sleep 9 months before we got Susie (he had oral cancer and was 15). Susie came to us as a stray who was found by a work colleague of my OH.

When Leo died my OH was with him and I have never seen a man cry so much as he did because Leo was very much his little buddy. His little name tag had come off his collar and was in the kitchen drawer - I wanted to keep it, but my OH said no, because he was worried they wouldn’t know who he was when he got to where he was going. I’ve always thought that was really sweet coming from a big strong man.