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Survivors Navigate Life After Breast Cancer

Handling Changes and Challenges After Treatment Ends

By

Updated May 24, 2010

Having a diagnosis of breast cancer changes your life.  Treatments may challenge your self-image as well as your body.  You may shift your priorities around in order to overcome this disease – and when treatment ends, you could find yourself in a different profession, or with a new focus.  In 2007, there were two million breast cancer survivors, finding their way through life after breast cancer.  Here are a few stories of people who changed their lives after breast cancer.  Read on, then tell your story.

Lynn Roodbol, Wellness Coach

Lynn Roodbol, Wellness Coach
Photo © Start Here and Go Forward

A little over 20 years ago, Lynn Roodbol was diagnosed with breast, colon, and skin cancer. Her husband lost his job, and she thought of death. She was negative and spiraled into depression. Then she worked with a therapist to shed negative feelings and shift to a positive view. “Therapy taught me to let go of anger and guilt. After all, I was an X-ray tech and I didn’t have a mammogram. I blamed myself,” she said. Roodbol, now a certified wellness coach, leads workshops and serves as a patient advocate for people living with cancer. Roodbol has this to say:  “If you spend your energy on wellness, it’s energy you don’t have to spend on being sick. And believe me, it’s so much more pleasant being healthy.

Mike Partain, Activist and Spokesman

Mike Partain
Photo © The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten

Mike Partain found a breast lump in April 2007, then had a mastectomy and chemotherapy. "I knew that I had to do it, but I hated the idea of chemo. It scared me."  Marines don't scare easily, but Mike felt blindsided because he had no risk factors for breast cancer. In May 2007 when a story on CNN revealed that the water at Camp LeJeune - where he was born - had been contaminated for 20 years, he felt betrayed by the military coverup. Partain joined a group of Marine survivors fighting to have the information made public, and the truth revealed for everyone affected.  He now serves as a spokesman and activist for The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, hoping that his illness will lead to discoveries about environmental causes of cancer.

Verite Reily Collins, Journalist, Health Blogger

Verite Reily Collins
Photo © Having Fun After Cancer

Most of us don't think of cancer recovery as a fun time. When she developed temporary blindness and skin lesions due to side effects of  Tamoxifen, Verite Reily Collins sought help at home and abroad.  She converted her journey into a fun, practical health blog for survivors.  Collins, a professional journalist in Great Britain, was diagnosed with breast cancer and treated by the National Health Service. While she's careful to say that she isn't a doctor, Collins gives you her take on products that you might try to relieve your treatment side effects and speed recovery. Meanwhile, she shares therapies, thoughts, and things that may ease the journey to survival for many breast cancer patients at her blog, Having Fun After Cancer.

How Has Breast Cancer Changed You?

Before finding a breast lump and having that fateful biopsy, I was a full-time webmaster at a large university.  My focus was on a computer screen, not on my health or people around me.  I worked with my office door tightly shut and my head down.  To their credit, my coworkers were very supportive of me during treatment.  A network of care formed to catch me when I needed it.  Now recovered and healthy eight years later, I work from home, spend time volunteering, have rebuilt relationships, and focus on my family.  I give back to others by writing about breast cancer – that's my way of providing support for you! 

How did breast cancer change your life?  What does your life look like now?  Tell me your story.

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