Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Ochsner but it is written by a local mom who bravely chooses to share her journey.
Beyond Surviving: The Journey Continues After Breast Cancer Treatment
Something I want people to know is that when someone goes through breast cancer and comes out on the other side, the journey doesn’t end there. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that to most people I look like a happy and healthy person, which yes, I am. But what people don’t usually get is that cancer is still something I think about every day. Things come up, whether it’s a routine appointment or something feeling off in my body, and I can be immediately sent back into a whirlwind of fear and anxiety. I am beyond grateful to be where I am today after going through breast cancer as a young woman, wife, and mother at age thirty three. I did the whole nine yards of treatment with chemo, surgery, and radiation. It was brutal but we made it through and I’m thankful to be cancer free and overall feeling pretty well today. But what caught me completely off guard is the fact that this journey doesn’t end when treatment ends. The physical and emotional challenges continue as I seek to process what I went through as well as to regain the strength, energy, and vitality that I had before my diagnosis. The fact of the matter is, I still need help.
For breast cancer survivors, while thankful that we’re on the other side of treatment, we also have to face the very real challenges of doing everything possible to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. I hate even writing those words, because it still feels so sensitive and scary, but this is my reality. Because the cancer I had was hormone driven, I knew from the beginning that I’d have to take hormone suppressant drugs as part of my long term treatment plan: as of now it’s five to ten years that I’ll be on a daily pill and a monthly shot, keeping me in medical menopause at age thirty five. What I didn’t realize is how these drugs would impact me in terms of side effects, nor did I anticipate that the emotional journey is actually harder for me post treatment than when I was going through it. I had no idea that I would need the ongoing support that I’ve ended up being so desperate for, which is why I am so deeply thankful for Integrative Oncology Services at Ochsner.
When I moved to New Orleans from Baton Rouge in 2022, I was fully planning on commuting back to Baton Rouge for my follow up doctor appointments because I absolutely loved my oncologist there. I agreed to see a new oncologist in New Orleans just so I’d be able to get my monthly shot here in town, but I didn’t see myself becoming a regular patient. However, after one visit with my new oncologist at Ochsner, I felt one hundred percent comfortable with her taking over all my care. It was at this time that she introduced me to the extensive care options that are part of Ochsner’s Integrative Oncology Services. Integrative care means that the doctors are committed to treating patients not just on the disease front, but also dealing with emotional needs as well as navigating side effects. This program helps patients find relief from symptoms, improve their overall well-being, and achieve physical, emotional and spiritual healing. These providers are truly committed to the health of each patient: body, mind, and soul.
I have now utilized most of the services and can’t say enough about how valuable they’ve been in helping me move forward physically and emotionally. I’ve received acupuncture for relief of anxiety and restless leg syndrome. I’ve talked with the gynecology department about nutrition and sexual health, receiving specific recommendations for vitamins and supplements for both of these areas. I’ve gone to physical therapy and yoga to help with my range of motion after my mastectomy. I received a discount on my membership at Ochsner Fitness after being referred by my doctor. And most recently, I went to a therapy session with an oncology psychologist who then referred me to a weekly mediation class to help with anxiety I’ve been dealing with. And all of this has happened at Ochsner! There is a commitment to my overall well being that I didn’t know I would need and am beyond thankful to receive.
All this to say, if you or a loved one receives a breast cancer diagnosis, please know that support will be needed for far longer than treatment takes. And also know that at Ochsner, you’ll receive attentive and broad care that seeks to help you move forward with life in every way possible. My advice is to take advantage of this care and to give yourself permission to receive compassion for longer than you may expect you’d need it. Breast cancer is a difficult journey but there are resources to make the journey bearable and people who really do care about your well being. I’m endlessly thankful to have found this care in New Orleans.