“It has been nearly three weeks since my diagnosis and I am still bouncing in and out of denial. I feel fine, I look fine. I don’t feel like I have cancer. Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe I don’t really have cancer.
These are words taken from my book, Beautiful Lady, which chronicles my personal journey through breast cancer where I learned that cancer consists of two equally important paths: one being the obvious medical path and the other being the emotional path. Healing the emotional wounds from a cancer diagnosis is as important as healing the physically wounds so that we can come through this terrible storm “wholly healed”, with body, mind, and spirit in sync.
When I was diagnosed, I was surprised and disappointed at how quickly my confidence and self-esteem were ripped to shreds. I had gone from being a strong, confident, successful business executive to someone who was suddenly scared of nearly everything. My trust had been shattered and it took me a long time to rebuild my courage and self-confidence.
A cancer diagnosis creates a storm of strong emotions, and it forces us to evaluate our lives and our mortality. Within a matter of seconds life is changed forever, and through my own experience, I learned that women often are not provided with the necessary tools to emotionally heal from this traumatic event. Some cancer treatment centers provide both medical and emotional support, but many do not. Often women are left to their own devices to heal and overcome the emotional trauma.
In addition to what our bodies are going through medically, our minds are experiencing extreme trauma which does not magically end when the medical treatments do. It just begins, which is why many women describe feelings of panic, devastation, and fear after returning home from cancer surgeries and/or treatments.
Trauma is real and so are its resulting physical effects. Cancer is a difficult journey, and we should not have to live with lingering trauma or be afraid to ask for help healing our emotions.
The stress and hormones activated in the brain by the traumatic event get stuck in survival mode and sometimes do not restore back to normal levels. When your brain is in constant stress mode, it trickles down and is normalized throughout the physical body, if the brain does not reset, survivors may develop PTSD.
According to statistics, nearly 80% of women develop PTSD symptoms after a cancer diagnosis. That is a staggering number of women, when you consider the statistics from the World Health Organization that cite 2.3M women were diagnosed globally with breast cancer in 2020. Do the math, and that means in just one year 1.8M women are struggling with some level of PTSD. That is in just one year.
The medical industry must do better.
They must recognize that cancer warriors need help medically and emotionally. We cannot just heal the physical body; we must also heal our mind and spirit.
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