Remission. Hearing that word is what every breast cancer patient waits to hear as she goes through treatment. The day-to-day stress that comes with the diagnosis is life altering and stressful, but few understand just how stressful life can be after treatment.
Lily — a new movie out Dec. 9 — poignantly explores the uncertainty that comes with life post-breast cancer. Based on the real-life experiences of co-writer and lead actress Amy Grantham, Lily follows her character as she learns to navigate life and deal with the changes — both physically and mentally — that come with breast cancer.
“A lot of people think that when you finish treatment that you feel like it’s totally behind you. For me, it was totally the opposite,” Grantham told SheKnows. She found a sort of solace in the consistency that came with treating her breast cancer. “As the end of my treatment loomed, I started to get pretty bummed out. I was going five days a week, seeing the same patients, same nurses, same doctors, same technicians. You strike up a relationship and then it was just gone.”
No one has a playbook, but the talented writer and actress had advice for other survivors facing life post-cancer.
Have an outlet for your feelings
Not enough stress is put on the importance on the outlet both during and after cancer treatment, Grantham said. “I had a blog that I kept and had a lot of people writing to me saying “now I started a blog, but I just finished treatment and didn’t want to burden people with my feelings,” she said. “It made me sad.”
The outlet doesn’t have to be writing; it can be running, singing, dancing… anything that makes you happy.
“You’ll see how good it is to get all of your feelings out about this,” she added. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and tell them what you need.”
Listen to your own thoughts
“There are a lot of people who say ‘you should do this, I would do that.’ Honor your own personal journey,” she said. “Listen to yourself and do what you really think is right for you. Let yourself have those moments of sadness. Let yourself feel that. Be sad, be angry, but don’t dwell on that.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff in life
Grantham said that what mattered to her changed drastically after treatment.
“What was nice about cancer, in a way, is that it eliminated all of the little things that took up space in my brain,” she said. “I used to get hung up on what people think about things. After I went through that it cleared my mind to figure out what was really important.”
And know that some relationships will change.
“Cancer also showed me who the true-blue people were going to be there for the long run,” she continued, adding that some people just disappeared from her life. But ultimately, she doesn’t blame them for their feelings.
“Everybody has a right to react the way they want to react. Being sick is scary, dying is scary. I was 31 when I was diagnosed and some people thought it was mind-blowing, ‘if she could get it, I could get it.’ People’s genuine feelings are OK,” she added.
Know that feelings change over time
You won’t always feel that uncertainty that comes after cancer, Grantham added. “I always say ‘how quickly we forget the things we went through.’ It was such a big part of my life, but I don’t really remember much about it at all.”
“Time goes on and certainly it’s a big part of you, and it changed my life for the better and that much I’m happy to hold on to.”