Feeling sad & bit sorry for myself post-radio

Nearly two weeks since I finished 20 sessions of radiotherapy and started tamoxifen. And these past few days I am feeling really grumpy, sad, tearful and sorry for myself. Supposed to be going back to work in a week or so, as other than being very tired by the afternoons I’m doing ok, all surgery and radio is complete. So why am I like this when everyone around me is congratulating me on getting through it all, saying surely I must be celebrating left right and centre etc etc. I don’t want to be around anybody but don’t want to be by myself either. Don’t know what I want! Just want my old self back


You’ve got to think back a bit. Getting a cancer diagnosis can turn your world upside down. The uncertainties and fears you just can’t avoid cause havoc with your emotions. Then you undergo surgery and 20 sessions of radiotherapy, which is not a walk in the park. Don’t you think you should cut yourself some slack?

You don’t feel sorry for yourself. You’re emotionally and physically drained! Radiotherapy after effects often occur after you’ve had the treatment and fatigue is a common reaction. It’s not tiredness. It’s not needing a nap. It’s a profound physical and emotional exhaustion and it is VERY common. I think you’re being very harsh on yourself. And it’s too early to go back to work if you feel this way. People will drive you mad. Your exhaustion will make you cross with yourself. Don’t go back until you are sure you can cope.

Your employer is obliged to register you as disabled as soon as they know of your diagnosis, under the 2010 Equalities Act (2018 updates). They must make concessions and meet you halfway, maybe through a phased return maybe flexible hours - it depends on your work. Just don’t go back too early. Macmillan can be very helpful with this is you have questions. 

As for your friends and family, they are projecting their own relief onto you. But they haven’t been through what you have. They won’t quite get it. You will learn to adapt to this, maybe a few friendly conversations, maybe a few pithy comments - or, if you choose, a brief period of isolation. There’s a website called futuredreams which offers online services (or real contact if you’re in London) and there is an amazing article one of the nurses posted on here a few years back. It really makes you appreciate that you can’t put the clock back, you can’t unthink what you thought or unhear what you were told - you are a different person now. You aren’t lost, you are reframing your life now (the author called it a new normal, which I though was the perfect term until our PM used it as a neat little soundbite for those millions upset cos they couldn’t go to the pub!).

Read it repeatedly. Let different bits register with you when you’re ready - and I really hope it helps you because you are a new person now. You may recover fast, you may recover more slowly, but you will find joy in little things and gradually the cancer and the side effects will dwindle, leaving room for a wiser, more experienced you all set to enjoy life again. Above all, be as kind to yourself as you would to someone else in this position.


Jan xx

Hi Flossieboss,

I think you hit the nail on the head there when you said you want your old self back. I think what you’re dealing with is bereavement and grief for yourself and your life before cancer and thats a perfectly valid and rational way to feel . If you had been put throught anything half as invasive and traumatic as your treatment by someone wishing you harm they would be locked up for life!   The fact that our wonderful NHS are doing their very best for us and saving our lives doesn’t mean its OK and isn’t deeply wounding at all sorts of levels.

The only person who knows how you’re feeling and what the right response is for you, is you.  Take your time, be very kind to yourself, just like you would with a dear friend going through the same situation.    There’s a whole lot more to healing than  finishing surgery and other treatments .  Most of it is in our hearts and spirit.   

Its a cliche but the people around you won’t know what to say if they haven’t been through it and its perfectly OK for you to tell them not to make assumptions about how you’re feeling - however well intentioned - and to just  ask you how you are and accept what you say without trying to change it or tell you how they think they’d feel ( they have no idea!).

Lots of love to you , I’ve still got my radiotherapy to come so I’ve got some of this still to experience! xx

I would be a bit kinder to yourself. Take it one day at a time.

sending hugs x