Get over it or get past it (or both)?
No! I didn’t get over it already. What’s more realistic is I’ve gotten past it. Trauma is like flowers that bloom, go dormant, and bloom again. Emotions, like living things, cycle over time. Get over it implies the trauma’s impact ended. Get past it implies overcoming the impact. Overcome and end have different finish lines. I’ll get over the cancer experience once there’s a cure. Here’s evidence I’m past it:
- Less intense panic attacks
- Fewer decisions I’m too paralyzed to make
- No need to explain that quadruple mastectomies dictate my wardrobe choices.
- Haircuts are haircuts, not flashbacks about being bald.
What’s the ‘it’ I’m past?
The radiologist, who I’d never met, entered the room, stared at the screen, and declared with certainty the abnormalities on my breast ultrasound were benign. The ultrasound technician looked shocked but didn’t contradict him. The radiologist missed the cancer. I didn’t put the ultrasound technician on the spot by asking what the look meant. We both deferred to the doctor’s white coat.
When my own doctor did follow up, one year later, I was four months from dead of advanced breast cancer. Treatment left me exhausted, underweight, brain-fried, and angry the cancer wasn’t diagnosed before it required heavy artillery.
They made mistakes where they’re supposed to be experts. I tried to stay angry that the radiologist was wrong and I nearly died because of it. I tried and couldn’t sustain the effort. I was too happy to be alive.
Most decisions rely on imperfect information; even experts can’t know every variable. My diagnosis was in time, if not timely.
I’m grateful. I’m past it.
As a fellow Canadian and a fellow patient with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I was so happy that I stumbled across your eloquently written blog and am in the midst of reading the archives.
I would love to hear your opinion of Joan Lunden’s statement recently, after her chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy for TNBC, that “I have saved my life”. Perhaps it was taken out of context and in fact she said, “Together with the support of my family and friends, and with the care of numerous health care professionals, I have saved my life.”
Dear Elaine, I’m sorry you joined this club, and so happy you found my blog, thank you. Like Joan, I had multiple treatment modes, as you perhaps also went through. You ask a good question. One possible response is the one my oncologist gave – you won’t know your life is saved from TNBC until you die from something else. Another possibility is – everyone is saved by someone. Or maybe this response – It’s good she has support and belief in herself.
At a deeper level, I’m never sure of anything, including that I’m safe from dying in the near future. So, I will instead be grateful every day that, almost five years ago, I was given four months to live if I didn’t have treatment. If my life is saved, which I pray it is, I remember also that I must live each day with love and joy for this extra time. I’ve been given another chance to be useful and of service to this lovely planet every day, and to appreciate my loved ones every minute; and make new friends whenever I can. I hope you will be one of them; I’d love to know how you’re doing now.
Best wishes for good health and a long life, Elaine.
I’m not past it yet, but I think I just need more time and distance. Thanks for continuing your blog—you always come up with thought-provoking posts.
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Deborah – your insights have inspired me for years now, and no more so than this one. I hope you’re safe and well.
I read this and immediately reflected that the difference between “get over it” and “get past it” is an invaluable perspective for all illnesses, whether they be physical or mental. Thanks Deb!
Thanks bgoose; I appreciate that. Deborah