Symptoms From Breast Cancer Treatment
- Legendary actress Jennifer Saunders, 64, rose to fame in the ’90s on the hit British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous—simply known as “Ab Fab” by adoring fans.
- At the end of the two-decade run, Saunders faced a breast cancer diagnosis at age 51, and she recalls dealing with difficult side effects from treatment that she wasn’t expecting due to “brutal” menopause symptoms.
- As tough as breast cancer treatment can be for many, just know that in most cases, the odds are in your favor of getting through it and getting back to feeling like yourself again—once the physical and emotional symptoms subside.
At the end of the two-decade run, Saunders faced a breast cancer diagnosis at age 51, and she recalls dealing with difficult side effects from treatment that she wasn’t expecting due to menopause symptoms.Read More
The abrupt transition into menopause can be tough, and it was admittedly difficult for the TV star.
“I don’t think they quite understand how that mentally affects you,” Saunders said. “You don’t quite know what you should feel like, so you think, ‘Is this depression? I don’t know. I just feel angry.'”
Saunders—who resides in Chagford, UK with her husband of 37 years, actor Abe Edmondson—was treated with six months of chemotherapy, and detailed her journey further in her 2013 autobiography, Bonkers: My Life In Laughs.
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“There are times when you want to cry all day,” the mom-of-three described of going through treatment. “My lowest point came when I lost all my hair; every eyelash, every follicle… I felt chemical. I felt like a chemical.”
When a rash broke out over her face, she sunk further into depression.
“It was horrible. I felt like a great big overgrown baby with pimples all over my face. A big, horrible, red-faced baby.”
While everyone suffers differently from emotional and physical side effect—or very few for the lucky ones—the drug she had to take along with chemotherapy, Tamoxifen, was unfortunately very difficult for Saunders.
“You lose your motor and it makes you feel depressed,” she shared. “You have that ‘I want to go to bed and sleep forever’ kind of feeling.”
Fortunately, after a tough fight, Saunders went into remission, and 13 years later, is continuing to thrive today.
Saunders hosts a podcast called Titting About, with her former co-star Dawn French, where they, in true Ab Fab form, “tell rollicking tales” of their lives. And beating cancer is definitely one of them!
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Although Saunders suffered immensely, the battle was temporary and she made it through. There is often light at the end of what seems like a very long tunnel. Keep fighting and keep pushing—you can get through it too!
Facing Breast Cancer Treatment
We spend a lot of time talking to survivors who tell us that cancer changed them. A lot of times, it’s for the better. But that doesn’t mean the journey to that good place is easy. Not at all.
Survivor Carrie Kreiswirth says that she was a really social person before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. But when she was going through chemo, she says she felt like she lost a part of herself. “I was a very social person, but became a bit of a recluse at that time,” Carrie says. “It took me a very long time to start feeling like myself again. Longer than I care to admit.”
Carrie says that going through cancer alone was really difficult, but dating kind of took a back seat to getting healthy during treatment. “I think for me it took so long to accept my new body the way that it was, the way that it is, that to then show that — to literally expose myself to someone else — is something that I haven’t necessarily felt completely ready for. But I am rounding that corner, and I am more open to dating.”
So how’d she get there? Carrie says it was self love. “I love myself; I love my body; it took me a very long time to get here. If someone is not OK with that, they’re not for me.”
Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On Yourself
Survivors tell us it’s key to ask for the support you need—both mentally and spiritually as well as for your practical needs. There is life after cancer so the goal is to keep hopeful and strong, and cut yourself some slack.
Dr. Susan Parsons, Director of Survivorship Care at Tufts University, often hears “How am I going to get through this?” as one of the first questions a person will ask after a cancer diagnosis. “My advice is to take one day at a time,” Dr. Parsons tells SurvivorNet, “and be kind to yourself.”
Many of the words that we use in treating cancer are about the war, and the battle, and the sense of bravery, and the sense of courage. And that puts a lot of pressure on some people.
Contributing by SurvivorNet staff.
“I think as a care team, we need to give people permission to be who they are and to give them the supports they need to get through their treatment.”