Depressed and angry 15 months after mastectomy

A brief history - I was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer in May 2007 and underwent a total left breast mastectomy. Thankfully no lymph nodes were involved so I didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy. I was initially prescribed Femara which was awful, caused all kinds of other complications, and for the past 9 months have been on Tamoxifen.

Okay, so both before and after the mastectomy I was absolutely “FINE!”. Made jokes, reassured everyone (whereas in retrospect I should have been the one getting assurance), acted as if everything in my life was completely normal. I even went out to dinner and a show on the night I was discharged from hospital, 2 days after surgery. Yes, I really was “FINE”. Three months after the mastectomy I went mountain climbing and summited the peak. I went back to gym and started running.

As I have (had) very small breasts I opted not to have a reconstruction, in any event couldn’t face the thought of more surgery and a hospital stay.

Fast forward to August this year, when I turned 56, and everything has fallen apart. I am very depressed and angry and resentful, with everyone and everything. I hate women who have both breasts and who are able to wear strappy tops or low cut dresses. I hate all the fashions featured in magazines which don’t take breast-less women into account. I hate the fact that I am in permanent menopause, suffer hot flushes and severe night sweats (although I am on homoeopathic remedies which do help). I cry if you look at me sideways. I hate having a vagina that is like the Sahara Desert (and yes I do use Replens and lubricants, although I have only had sex with my husband twice since the mastectomy - he says he is afraid of hurting me.) I hate having no oestrogen. I hate the thought that this disease, and the medication, is turning me into an old woman before my time.

Its almost as if I dealt too well with breast cancer at the time of the diagnosis, and am now falling apart. When people heard that I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation therapy, most of them responded by saying how “lucky” I was. Well right now I feel I would rather have gone through a lumpectomy and chemo with all its awful side effects, including no hair, rather a lifetime with only one breast. That sounds soooo selfish, I know.

There is a part of me that is feeling very embarrassed about letting all this out, but I wondered if there is anyone else who has had these feelings, and if so, how they dealt with them? I am not good at sharing or talking about my feelings - had two counselling sessions which did no good because I found it so hard to open up.

Thanks so much for listening!!

Ruby,
Just want to send you a hug.
If there is one thing I have learned about BC is that it plays havoc with your emotions.I think it hits us all in different ways.I was fairly strong before surgery and while in hospital but not since!
Don’t feel embarrased,this is the place to be honest and people will understand.
You need to talk to someone about how bad you feel ,your GP ,BCN or consultant.Or give the helpline a call here for some support?
Hugs
Dot
xx

Hi Ruby

As Dot has mentioned above please don’t hesitate to give the BCC help line a call. Here you can share your feelings with one of our trained members of staff who will be able to offer you a ‘listening ear’ as well as additional support and advice if required. The number is free phone 0808 800 6000 and the line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturdays 9am to 2pm.

Please give them a call, it may help.

Kind regards

Sam
BCC Facilitator

Thank you Dot and Sam for your response. I do not live in the UK, but there is an organisation here in South Africa called Reach for Recovery (amongst others) who I should contact. Problem is my first experience with them wasn’t great . . . but yes, I need to “pull myself towards myself” and get my bum into gear!

Thanks again, and big hugs.

Hi Ruby

I’m still going thro’ chemo so really can’t add to what’s been already written, but this may help-

Search for a topic on here called ’ Dr Peter Harvey’, go the link at the bottom of the first page which will direct you to another website. On there you will find a document written by Dr Peter Harvey. It’s absolutely brilliant and I know it’s helped a lot of people. It’s called ’ After treatment finishes - what then?’

I hope it helps.

Take care

Mal

Hi everyone, Thanks so much for your support. Its amazing how therapeutic it has been for me just being able to off-load in a safe and non-judgmental space. I have been in touch with Reach for Recovery who will get someone in my area to call me.
Have a wonderful evening, hugs to you all.

Meant to add a comment for Mal - I downloaded the Peter Harvey article, and yes it is excellent. I am going to give it to hubby to read as well. So thanks for that.

Just a quick Good Luck!!
I’m 56, had rt mx 3 years ago, no chemo etc, no recon, so FINE, like you, …except for the days when I go shopping for new clothes and can’t find anything I can wear…must be worse for you in a hot country, this summer here hasn’t warranted low tops etc., and soon all the Christmas party stuff will be in the shops and we won’t be able to wear those either!

Having breast surgery is something we will never forget, with the obvious daily reminder. I think we will always have times when we want to scream, and this is a good place to do it. If you had been injured/had an amputation after an accident you could claim Post Traumatic Stress, well I think we can too, because that is exactly what it is. Be nice to yourself, and to your husband, he’s been with you through all this. I know it’s trite, but the longer you don’t have sex the less likely you are to try again… apparently the more you do it the more you want to do it…(oh yeh?)…but lubricants are such a turn-off, and I reacted to Replens! And I know people such “going back to dating mode” etc, but that always seems so contrived…stick with lots of hugs and cuddles, which you both need, if that’s what you feel comfortable with, until confidence/desire returns.

Or just go out and have a good meal, huge amounts of wine, and a good giggle, with husband, friends, who-ever you can relax with, and enjoy yourself, you deserve it!
hugs, Sue

know exactly how you feel. had right mastecomy 2002 went through summer that year and 2003, 2 weddings (nephews), 2 Christmases, all without being able to find anything to wear that I liked. Sex was impossible (not that I had any sex drive anyway) although husband very understanding. Have been off Tamoxifen since last December and hot flushes now down to a manageable level although sex is still virtually non-existent but lost of kissing and cuddling. Although not for everyone, I did eventually have reconstruction in March 2004 and the good feeling about that has just about off-set the bad bits. Still annoyed at companies who support Breast Cancer Care (eg ligerie companies) but whose garmets are only meant for people with 2 breasts! I can now wear strappy tops in summer and slightly lower cut tops although being only a 34B I never did have much cleaveage anyway! I also felt the way you do, being so absorbed in getting through treatment to start with you don’t realise the other bad bits! Don’t despair, you are not alone nor are you unusual in feeling this way. Best of luck to you.

rubypearl - your words could have been mine at one time; all I can say is - don’t fight it, the only way out is through, you have to grieve for what you have lost and it takes its own time; and you don’t ever have to aplogize for your feelings, they are natural and normal, and what we have been through is serious stuff - it wasn’t tonisillitis. Don’t suffer alone - we are here to help, and there’s BCC and counselling and it all does help, it won’t make it go away, but it helps, and we understand.

Big hugs
s

Hi Silversue, Fran and Snowwhite, Have been off-line for four days, which is why I haven’t responded earlier. Thanks SO MUCH for all your support. You cannot believe how much it has helped me to know that other women have (and are) experiencing the same feelings. Must say that I honestly am feeling a lot better now, but have still made an appointment to chat to one of the Reach for Recovery volunteers.
Blessings and hugs to you all.
PS for Silversue - we do go out and have lovely meals with lots of wine, but hubby then comes home and falls into bed and snores and farts all night! [There is a lovely local South African word - “snork” - which expresses it perfectly!] :slight_smile: Never mind, I still love him to bits and he has been a wonderful support. I guess we don’t realise that cancer hits our partners as hard as it hits us, but they perhaps have different ways of dealing with it.

Hi Rubypearl

I was so touched by reading your thread.

I too was diagnosed in May 2007, I had Chemo, Radio and a bilateral mastectomy which 9 out of 16 lymph nodes came back positive, My overies were also removed. I am still havng Herceptin and have been put on Arimidex for 5 yrs. I had reconstrution using expander implants.

I too went through a lot of feelings that you are going through. Permanant menapause, the hot fulshes etc… i still have no sex drive and sex was very painful, like you say we are like the Sahara Desert, I found that Replens used in combination with Sylks did the trick.

I took to the diagnosis and treatements very well and like you gave reassurance to everyone around me. Once the treatment had finsihed it seemed that everyone around me thought ‘thats it now, she’s better’ but they were further from the truth. A lot of my feelings i had were of anger, anger to the menapause, anger to the mastectomy, the scars and anger to the people around me that expected me to be as i was before.

We have to come to terms with what has happened and what we have been through. We have to learn to love ourselfs again come to terms with the scars. I now look at my scars and smile. i smile because i beat it. I look at my short hair and smile, smile because like my hair i have a fresh start. I am still here. You are still here. We will never be the same person as we were before, having breast cancer is a life changing experience. But hopeully like thousands of women out there I am a better person for it.

All the best
Karen x

Hi Ruby

My story is pretty similar to yours, diagnosed May 2007, lobular and ductal in same breast, left breast mastectomy and as no spread to lymphs no chemo or rads just Arimidex for 5 years. I also made jokes, talked about my mastectomy area as my ‘no boob’ and remaining breast my ‘one boob’ made everyone around me very comfortable even when i developed septicemia after my surgery and nearly died! To this day i still try to joke with my 2 breasted friends.

My best friend keeps telling me how lucky i was not have had chemo, yes i know i was fortunate not to need it but it was pretty s***t getting the disease in the first place! She has recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis and now tells me that i am much fitter and much healthier than her! Also that i am cured! Now that one really does give me the eby geebies and while i try not to dwell on the fact that it could come back and eventually see me off it does irritate the whatsit out of me when she say that!

I did go through a period of being upset at 2 breasted women, one of my friends who is very large breasted on our first lunch out after my mastectomy wore a very low top showing off 2 big perky breasts!

My poor husband was nearly branded a pervert as when he went to get petrol soon after my mastectomy he could not help but look at the cleavage, well on display, of the cashier! She asked him what he was looking at and he reddened up very quickly apologised and explained what had happened to me.

About 10 months after my surgery i just felt unwell and anxious all the time, so much so that it was beginning to interfere with my life, I had very grey days when i just felt ill and unable to cope then when the grey lifted all of a sudden i was euphoric! I knew this was not right especially when my husband used to gingerly open the door after coming home from work and peering round the door to see if he would be greeted by floods of tears of a more ‘normal’ wife! I knew i needed help so went and saw my wonderful GP he prescribed Prozac and within a month my life was turned around. I occasionally get grey days but they usually lift if i go for a walk or do something but they are perhaps only now once every couple of months. I am not advocating everyone rush out and get prozac but if you do feel not able to cope see your GP there is help out there. I also see my wonderful counselor at the hospice once a month and she has helped tremendously.

Of course we are going to feel anger, i think it all part of the process we have to go through, I think i grieved for the life i had before BC, the long term plans I had made, my old age, grandchildren, I will hopefully still have all these things but i am realistic. Now i do all the things i want to do, I sadly lost my father in 2006 and he left me a little inheritance and i spend it now, I am not waiting till i am a pensioner now to spend it, I have already had 3 (cheap) holidays this year and another one planned for end month, I will worry about my old age when i get there.

Ruby, I know what you mean about the whole chemo rads thing, my cousin Jean had breast cancer 10 years ago, a couple of weeks ago she phoned me to see how i was and said, and i think this is very prophetic “Suzy, I had the disease 10 years ago, i had aggressive cancer grade 3 but they did a lumpectomy, 8 months of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation, it was total hell at the time and i had a bad couple of years, but when i wake every morning now i still have 2 breasts and it is like it never happened to me, 10 years on and there are no reminders”. So I know exactly what you mean and so did my cousin.! Yes it is annoying when we are told we are lucky and i do understand what you are saying.

Hope you feel really perky really soon and i am so sorry that you have been feeling the way that you have.

Love
Suzy

I am SO touched by all the posts from everyone. That is the wonderful thing about this site - I have been able to share my deepest fears and feelings in a safe space, and have been so comforted to read that other women have been through, or are going through, the same thing. That has helped more than any one-on-one counselling could have done.
Thank you all so much. I send everyone love and hugs and may you all be showered with blessings.

Hi Suzzanne, a comment on your post - Thats another thing that really p*sses me off - the insensitive things people say, e.g. your friend intimating she is far worse off than you are! When I was diagnosed, my sister-in-law, while being very supportive and caring, said “well its only a breast, so what does it matter”. And several friends, when I mentioned the awful side effects of the Femara which I was on at the time, just brushed them aside and then went on to moan and groan about their complaints!

And now a question to the women who didn’t choose reconstruction - do you go flat all the time, or only at home, or do you wear a prosthesis? I am small breasted (32A/B) so decided against reconstruction, and on the advice of my surgeon bought an Amoena Tria Contact breast form, at great cost, but have only used it about 10 times over the past year. Most of the time I just stuff cotton wool in my bra - although unfortunately it gives me a bit of an odd shape at times! I find that the breast form irritates my scar and also feels bigger than my other breast (probably because it is not so floppy!), and when I get hot (which is most of the time) or exercise, sweat builds up behind it which is seriously gross. I had hoped to be brave enough to say “stuff it” to the world and go around one-breasted, but unfortunately haven’t managed to get there yet! I wear plain M&S stretch cotton bras, which sort of flatten my other breast anyway. Any comments or advice please?

Hi Ruby

Me again! I was due to have a reconstruction at time of mastectomy as i am a 40B with the back flap but unfortunately on the day the hospital cocked up on my time to come in so there was not enough time to do the reconstruction. My surgeon instead put in an implant which very soon became infected which led to my septicemia! I had further surgery to remove the implant and once gone i started finally to heal. I had further sugery in March for a dodgy ovary so as far as i am concerned reconstruction is the last thing on my mind, even after my surgery in March i got another wound infection, I just don’t heal well after surgery.

I am sticking with my prothesis, I have 3 in all 1 from the breast unit and 2 that i got online to switch when i am on holiday, a climate control one. Due to very uneven scaring i cannot wear the adhesive ones so have to rely on pocketed bras. At the moment i am wearing a very ugly silver lymphoedema bra which squashes everything down, only when i go out do i wear the normal pocketed ones. Must admit by 7pm am pretty fed up with the protheses so get undressed into my night clothes to chill in front of the TV, as i have the dreaded sweats my bra is usually wringing by the time i get undressed! The prothesis certainly does make me sweat more, though i have got used to it now as have been wearing for a year.

A friend of mine is a 32A and had both breasts removed, she never wears anything and i must admit i never notice and neither does anyone else, I think it is personal choice, i am far to big on the other breast to go one boobed, i did give the postman a shock one morning when i rushed downstairs to open the door in just my low cut nightdress!

Ruby do what is comfortable for you, I also have some cotton boobed shaped prothesis which i got online, they are great for sleeping in a lymphodema bra and also during the day when i sit out in the garden reading.

Hope that helps a bit

Love
Suzy

Hi Suzy, I like the sound of the cotton prosthesis so will now see what I can find on line.
Thanks and love, Ruby
PS You probably made the postman’s day!!

Hi Ruby, I am not a pretty sight first thing in the morning anyway so i have most prob turned him homosexual!!!

I got my cotton prothesis from Amoena and also nicola jane do them, they are so cheap too under a tenner, let me know how you get on with them. I do hope that has helped, i think the cotton one would be better than cotton wool, all you really need is a bit of shape, I wish you could see my prothesis it is huge! I also have a jelly one that i use for swimming, looks like a huge jellyfish! Just hope it never falls out!

Best wishes
Suzy

He he he Suzy, what a lovely sense of humour you have! I have quite a few gay friends and have told them that if they are ever considering going “straight”, they should ask to see me naked first! Well at least we can laugh about it, which is the most important thing. I have just had a call from a friend - a close friend of hers (who I don’t know) has just been diagnosed with BC and she has asked me to call her. For once, I can feel grateful (if that is the right word) for my experiences in the hope that they can give strength and comfort to someone else. I will definitely refer this site to her.
Love to you and your jellyfish!
If you ever come to South Africa let me know, I would love to meet you and take you swimming!

Hi All
Havn’t been on here for ages, but just reading this, has helped me no end I had rt mx september 2007 and five lymph nodes removed. I feel just the same magazines, television, shops all catering for people with two boobs, and this alone makes you feel down. Everyone telling you how lucky you are gets to be a drag as well. I know I should feel better but I don’t at times, and I just feel like a freek.

Sorry just feel better for typing this.

Hugs and best wishes everyone.

Sweetheart