Being Hacked By Breast Cancer Treatment…Giving Yourself Time

I discovered that over two-thirds of my regular Blog Readers are 6 months to 2 years out from diagnosis, thanks to the poll you so graciously answered.  You are trying to find your way and find answers after treatment ends.  The biggest complaint I hear from you is that you feel quite alone left with the side effects of brutal cancer treatment.   Also, you feel guilt and emotional pain because it is expected you should be back to normal and your old self, but you feel far from normal.

During this blog post read, let’s compare ourselves to a tree. Here in the Midwestern United States, every year I see what I call TREE HACKERS, hired by the electric company, going through neighborhoods and thoroughfares removing limbs and entire parts of trees that have grown into electrical wires.  Proper pruning, which would be no more than 20% of the tree, is not done, but the trees are hacked to prevent deaths.   This hacking takes 30%, 40% and even 50% of the original tree.

tree-trimmingI’m sure you can relate to these tree pictures.   Before Breast Cancer you felt like the whole tree.  But whatever percentage was taken from your tree on Breast Cancer Road, you have been hacked. Your body has been hacked, your breasts were hacked, your hair was hacked, your immune system was hacked, your relationships were hacked, and every other part of your life was hacked.

Then the worst part is while your branches are starting to grow back, you have to constantly be on the lookout in case the tree hackers return.

Whenever you get impatient about how long it is taking to get better and feel better, remember these visuals of the hacked trees, then be patient with yourself.  Branches have an uncanny way of returning!  The remaining branches will work extra hard to replace the missing branches.  But it takes time.

My neighbors had such a tree.  Over 50% of the tree was taken – sliced down the middle by utility hackers.   It has taken a long time, but that tree is whole again!  That is my hope for all of us!




  1. I had six months of Chemo/ a Radical Mastectomy and 33 Radiation treatments. I finished all treatment in March of 2013. I am still weak and am fatigued all the time. I feel like I have been run over by a bus most of the time.

    • Marianne, it takes a very long time. I found that about a year after chemo ended, I had the first wave of feeling better. Then at the 2 year mark, I had the second wave of feeling better. Your feelings are so common. It will get better…

  2. Hey Denise. Glad to see you doing so well. Just my two cents on the above, your analogy is so right on. In addition to the obvious parts that are hacked, we deal with issues of depleted hormones such as mood changes, hot flashes, memory loss, joint pain, skin and hair changes, no libido, painful intercourse, and then still maintain a steady calendar of treatments and scans. Chemo leaves a permanent mark and the hormonal treatments are not easy either. While you start to look whole again in your appearance, physically you feel far from it. This is the one thing that really only a fellow sister truly understands. xo

    • Thanks, Jennifer! I so much appreciate your insights as well. You are always and continue
      to be such an inspiration to me and to all fellow sisters! Amen to the depleted hormones!
      I can certainly relate to all of those things. Thanks for checking in!

  3. Love your blog message.  What a great visual and comparison.  Love your hats and caps too.  Very beautiful but I sure hope I never need one after I know what you have been through. Keep up the good work.  I can’t imagine how many women you are helping. Blessings, Auntie M

  4. Hi Denise, your “hacked” analogy is bang on I reckon. 24Oct was my final chemo, Xmas eve morning was my final 25th radiotherapy, and after basically nursing myself thru horrid radiation burns during the entire holiday period, I am feeling better last week, and finally able to wear a loose sports bra, and feel I am truly past the worst of it all and anticipate my “tree” regrowth with optimism. I am hoping to have the courage and strength to delve into removal of my (so far) healthy breast and a double reconstruction sometime this year; more “hacking” I suppose hey..hmmm.. Thanks so much for your blogging thoughts, it helps keep me focused 🙂 Kelly-Downunder

    • Hi Kelly, so you are in the newly hacked category! Oh gosh, you have been
      through so much recent stuff. Those post-radiation burns are the worst! You
      never thought you would be so happy to wear a bra! Thanks for writing.
      The worst is behind you! Glad to hear from a sister downunder!

  5. Wow. I just finished standing in front of my bathroom mirror looking at my hacked body. I am so much heavier and well uglier than I have ever felt. Add turning 50 and well. Enough said. Your insight is amazing and a gift to others you willingly share. Thank you once again. It was right on time. Clara

    Sent from my iPod

  6. Exact feelings I have. I think I even look like you! 🙂 Thanks for your blog, it really helps me see my thoughts and feelings justified and felt by others going through the same treatments and fighting this breast cancer.

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