The moment you learn you have breast cancer…will forever be a moment frozen in time. Your life will never be the same and believe it or not, some changes will be for the better. Nonetheless, I remember feeling like a “deer in the headlights” and just wanted to crawl into bed and hide under the covers.
Ask Questions. If you have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re probably overwhelmed by an ocean of emotions. Fear is one of the most powerful yet anti-productive of all. Perhaps the most important thing many survivors have learned is the importance of getting a second opinion. Many women and men are led to feel that Dr.s are “Gods” when at this important moment, we must realize they are only human.
Keep a journal. Taking notes at all appointments is essential. Having a companion along to help with this and lending a second set of eyes and ears can prove invaluable. Oftentimes what’s said and what’s heard can be completely different. Treating your medical team as just that, your team, with you as the decision maker will help make you feel empowered and in control. They are your partners…not your dictator.
Everyone is different. Don’t let others influence your decision or compare their journey to yours. Each diagnosis is unique because you are unique. Statistics will help you make decisions but don’t let them discourage or depress you.
Do your own research. Thank goodness for the Internet and the immense wealth of information available for review. Check for support services and take advantage of everything and anything offered to you.
Stay away from well-meaning but negative people. With rising numbers of breast cancer diagnosis, everyone will know someone with the disease. Many will try to encourage you but some may recount stories of friends or loved ones lost to the disease. You must not allow yourself to be dragged down by well-meaning but negative people. I call it the “cancer card”. If you want to get out of situations that are not healthy for you, simply use your disease as a valid reason to say “NO”.
Make your own decisions. Don’t let others influence the treatment plan that makes you feel the most comfortable and empowered. Just because Aunt Sally had a mastectomy, decide what is best for your well-being and your body. Getting a second opinion helps with feeling confident in deciding on the best path of treatment.
Be Prepared to have Patience. The word patient definitely is a first cousin to patience. Treatment is a year-long process in most cases and realizing that upfront helps reduce stress. Having realistic expectations will reduce discouragement if things don’t exactly go as planned. Take one day at a time, rest and take care of yourself. Your family will need to step up to the plate and help out as much as possible.
Meditate and Pray. Whatever your beliefs, positive mantras and affirmations help with stress.
Lean on Others. Learn to accept help graciously. This is one journey that is extremely difficult to try and navigate alone and no one expects you to. Have a small “pity party” then make a plan to organize your battle plan. Accept meals, rides to treatment and house cleaning services when offered. Rest is an important part of any treatment and recovery plan and support systems for these tasks are an essential component.