INDIA: Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, such as breast cancer, which is loaded with social stereotypes and stigma, endangers not only an individual’s physical health but also their mental health.
In an interview with Transcontinental Times, breast cancer survivor Ryn Sloane narrated her journey with the disease. According to her, the key to remain calm in the midst of fear and anxiety is to derive hope from the examples of those who braved the disease like a champion.
Breast Cancer survivor narrates her journey
Ryn Sloane perceived her diagnosis at 38 with utter shock since she bears no medical history of heavy drinking or smoking. In fact, she admitted her lifestyle is healthy, and she works out regularly. But her sudden diagnosis as a cancer patient led her to pay attention to the social stigma of unhealthiness associated with breast cancer.
When she discovered the stigma and social ostracization that comes with a cancer diagnosis, she began to advocate better awareness for young women in a similar state to propagate the strong scientific fact that breast cancer is “no longer an older woman’s disease- it’s an every-woman’s disease.”
Following her first-hand experience of the diagnosis and medical treatments, including the mental agony that one goes through, Ryn decided to become vocal about the issue and started coaching breast cancer survivors, helping them “work through the emotions that haven’t been resolved so that they can reclaim themselves and their lives.”
Her method is ‘unique’ as she uses the medium of ‘self-expression’ to encourage survivors to speak out their emotions, process them thoroughly and release them in cathartic relief.
When asked about the biggest challenge she faced during her cancer treatment, Ryn mentioned the uneasy and helpless state of solitude despite the unwavering support of family and friends.
“The mental fight often weighs you down but try to navigate through it,” she says. There is a varied catalogue of emotions and feelings involved in the cancer fight that has the ability to dehumanize the individual and take away their identity in a way.
Ryn’s major epiphany was the “massive gap in the health system,” as she explains that systemic failures do not allow the diagnosed individual to get the same level of mental care as physical comfort.
“The whole person isn’t being looked after – their physical body is – so mental health, which is a crucial aspect of physical well-being, takes a back seat on the priority list,” she added
Ryn recalls many diagnosed people have trouble returning to their old selves because they have lost all sense of identity, time, or place- “they’re literally lost.”
Breast Cancer survivor talks about the importance of self love
When the weekly treatments slowly waned, Ryn asked her doctor what she should do next. Her doctor simply said, “Live your life,” not realizing that a cancer survivor can never go back to their old selves again. She stated, “Everything has literally changed, and there’s no support in how to cope with that either.”
Breast cancer taught Ryn to value and appreciate her body as a resilient and daunting force of being, able to withstand any challenges that life has to offer. She had always criticized her body and her appearance, typical of society’s obsession with beauty, especially when it came to women.
Ryn’s major takeaway was self-love, “I learned how to have compassion toward my body and love it deeply.” She gives huge credit to her supportive husband for being there for her every step of the way, from doctor’s appointments to taking care of her welfare at every point.
Mastectomy is a huge challenge for those diagnosed with breast cancer, a procedure that changes the female body in more ways than one. Ryn guides young girls to give time to therapy because healing is a complicated process that works on multiple levels and is an entire process of self-recovery.
“I also feel that after treatment is when women will be able to fully begin restoring not just their confidence but themselves and their lives because while they’re fighting cancer and in treatment, there’s just so much happening all at once, it’s asking quite a lot for them to be able to put in the work during that time,” she added.
Ryn’s golden words of wisdom and guidance for those affected by the disease are simply embracing the harsh realities of ups and downs with both “determination and gentleness.” She asks the diagnosed to live every moment as best they can and keep track of the journey, the good, bad, and the ugly.
“Reach out to breast cancer groups or organizations, ask loved ones for help and find gratitude in every day, right now, and live from that place moving forward. I’m rooting for you,” she continued further.