Identity Crisis

Hi. I’m Rochelle, and I’m having an identity crisis.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest (pun intended), I’ll explain.

Experiencing an identity crisis is one of the least talked about parts of cancer treatment, yet it’s more common that many realise.

Of course, I fully appreciate it’s not just cancer patients or survivors that experience an identity crisis. But hey, it’s my blog…

In the cancer world, they talk about the different identities that can be experienced after receiving the diagnosis. The first identify is ‘patient’. As a patient, our identity is defined by active treatment. It’s a full-time job, and the job description is very clear: endless appointments, scans, waiting for results, taking drugs, losing hair…the list goes on.

And then (for the lucky ones) comes the next identity – ‘survivor’. Coming through the other side of treatment we are changed people. Physically and mentally. For me, I felt strong. I felt I had a sense of purpose as a survivor. To get fitter again. To take less crap. To be a better person. All of these driven by my identity as survivor.

But five years post cancer (the five-year blog is still coming) the survivor identify is fading from the exterior. It will always be within me, but I don’t feel as connected to it. Some hold onto this identify for the rest of their lives and it lives front and centre in all they do. But for me, I don’t want to be defined by it. So now what?

Insert identity crisis.

Cancer has changed many things for me, but the biggest thing it has changed is my career path. I left a job I dreamt about from a young age and loved, but I knew deep down it was no longer the right job for my health and future.

I often catch myself questioning my decision to leave. I was good at my job. I loved the network of friends the job offered.  I turned up to each trip feeling success in life and myself. But mainly because I knew who I was in that life. My identity was clear.

However, I left. And it’s now time to start searching for that new identity. I don’t know what my new career will look like, and I’m often overwhelmed by the fear of where the road will lead. What will I do? Will it be the right fit? Will I find the same satisfaction of success like I did in the past? I hope so.

All I know is I have a shiny piece of paper to help me shape that new identity.

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“Sometimes, we stay on our path because we’re good at what we do. Because we think that makes the most sense. Or because we wonder if it would be too late to be good at anything else.” – Australian Writers’ Centre

 

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How’s ya health?

It’s a questions I’m asked often. And the usual reply is “No complaints”.

If you had asked me that questions last week, it would have been a difficult one to answer.

For those not in the boob industry, you may not have heard that last year they revealed some findings that has linked breast implants to a rare type of blood cancer – ALCL (anaplastic large cell lymphoma). The link has been made with textured implants (there are two types – textured surface or smooth…in case you were interested to know), and my guess is 99% of women who have implants due to reconstruction from breast cancer have textured – as we don’t have tissue to help with forming a nice shape, which textured ones do.

Of course when I heard this news, my first phone call was to my plastic surgeon to ask the million dollar questions: which type do I have? I’ll let you guess the answer to that… After consulting with my plastic surgeon, Dr O, I learnt that even though I am at higher risk of developing ALCL – 1 in 6000 chance (compared to the 1 in 500,000 they originally reported), I would probably notice the symptoms early. These include pain, swelling or a pocket of fluid. Not having tissue will make these symptoms more noticeable.

Fast forward 6 months from that appointment, to last week.

Wednesday morning my alarm went off at 3:50 am for my usually Wednesday morning run session. As soon as I got up, I felt a stabbing pain in the side of my breast; I instantly knew something felt “off”. I tolerated it for most of the morning before deciding maybe I should see someone about it. I sometimes feel like a hypochondriac, and worry the doctors will just shake their head and say I’m imagining it, but as it turns out I hadn’t imagined it and the ultrasound revealed fluid around the implant.

As you can imagine, my first reaction when I learnt the news was: “But I have an Ironman 70.3 in 3 weeks???”

As you can imagine, their reaction was: “And…?”

I’ve spent the past weekend trying to act normal. Trying to train as I would without the cloud of uncertainty following me around. After all, if it was nothing, why waste my last weekend of solid training before tapering (I know, priorities…).

And I’m glad I did, because the results came back clear.

I know this will be something I will constantly have to face for the rest of my life, and I swear if cancer doesn’t kill me, I’m sure to die of a heart attack from the scares along the way.

Back to tapering…