A woman's face is obscured as the silhouette of her body begins to shatter into pieces.

Cancer and Loss (Part 1)

Last updated: January 2022

The truth is when you're diagnosed with cancer you are going to experience various forms of loss. For those of us with ovarian cancer specifically, that can mean anything from the parts of us that were taken as part of our debulking procedure, our ability to have children the traditional way, and the way we viewed the world pre-diagnosis. These three things are hard, life-altering things. You've lost things you had planned on always being a part of you, or at least an option to be a part of you. So how do you process all of this?

The loss of our future family

Being diagnosed post having children, I can't imagine what it would feel like to find out not only that you had cancer, but your ability to have children the traditional way is now no longer an option. It's something that was always on the table and now the traditional way is gone...and you have to reassess how you go about doing this.

Seeing friends go through this is hard, it's tough and I always say that I don't know what you're going through, but I can listen...sometimes that all you want is someone who will listen and let you shed tears as you try to process.

There is grief and fear

The other things we lose after being diagnosed with cancer I'm all too familiar with - there are days you go from laughing to crying, then wanting to punch something because all of this just isn't fair. I get it.

What you are feeling is completely normal. We are not supposed to know how to navigate this part of life, because this wasn't supposed to happen to us, it just wasn't. It takes time to process what's happened because you didn't for the first 6-9 months after being diagnosed - you went straight into fight mode. You did what you had to do to get through to the other side and you didn't have the time you needed to think about what was happening, and now, maybe you do.

Write a letter to your former self

One idea a fellow cancer survivor shared with a group of us when dealing with grieving the loss of who you once were and all that cancer had taken from you. Write a letter to your former self - maybe start by finding a quiet space and equip yourself with the things needed for your choice of writing medium. Allow yourself enough time to not be rushed. Allow yourself to feel all the things and get them out - there are no right or wrong things to say, this is how you are feeling, YOUR FEELINGS. Some things you may want to say - "you were incredible and I loved how...", "there are days I still wish I was able to...", "I'm angry because this isn't fair!" (yes, I said it, it's not fair). As you go through this process things may come to mind that you didn't even realize were lingering, that you'd buried deep down - let it out, now's the time!

While you might be thinking the technique of grief and loss writing is usually for those who've lost someone, you're right...but you lost part of yourself too.

What have you done that's helped in processing who you were before and who you are now? And if you've tried the writing exercise, what benefits did you see?

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