This post is written by Lillie Shockney, the Administrative Director of the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center and a two-time breast cancer survivor.

Completing Treatment - Time to Celebrate?

You'd think so. You've been through surgery, perhaps chemo and radiation, maybe on or completing hormonal therapy and you are finally "done" breast cancer treatment. So ready for a party?  Most will say no. Why? Though most of you (and me) are thrilled to be done treatment, the idea of celebrating sounds some how risky. I spoke to a woman today who had just finished her treatment. She said, "I'd love to have a party but don't want to jinx myself-you know, the cancer might come back. "  And thus the fear of recurrence, whether it be local recurrence (back in the breast or chest area where it started) or distant recurrence (in the form of metastatic disease with breast cancer springing up in another organ) paralyzes women from feeling comfortable with celebrating this mammoth job they have completed-- overcoming breast cancer.

Though most recurrences, if they are going to happen, occur within the first two years (so should you celebrate at the 2 year mark?), some recurrences don't happen for quite a few years later. So, is there ever a time in our lives to finally feel like we are done with this fear? Sadly, the answer is "not really."  However, if we live in fear everyday of breast cancer returning, then we aren't frankly living. The cancer is holding us captive anyway. So, my message to you is don't let that happen. Don't let this disease steal any more of your life than you had to give it to get rid of it. Though you may never decide to actually have a party, you should see each day going forward as another day that you are, as best anyone knows, cancer-free. Each day then is really a day to celebrate, isn't it? This disease has put us in touch with our mortality. So, rather than focusing on the what if's (ie., what if it comes back), focus instead on moving forward with your life, having learned from this experience that life holds no guarantees, but it does hold many wonderful moments. I hope for you many wonderful moments going forward too. Keep your glass half full instead of half empty.

More about Breast Cancer Survivor Care

-Lillie Shockney, RN., BS., MAS  
Administrative Director, Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center
University Distinguished Service Associate Professor of Breast Cancer
Associate Professor, JHU School of Medicine,  Depts of Surgery & Gynecology and Obstetrics
Associate Professor, JHU School of Nursing

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