You just received the phone call from your physician. One of your worst fears has come true. You have breast cancer.
A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Now you are faced with making important decisions about your treatment while trying to cope with the shock and fear about your future. Just as cancer treatment affects your physical health, it can affect the way you feel and think. Upon hearing the words “cancer,” people — as well as their loved ones — are thrown into a whirlwind of emotions ranging from anger, fear, denial and overwhelming sadness.
Each person’s experience with cancer is unique, and the feelings, emotions and fears you have are different. But here are some tips to help you along the way:
Be Informed: The more you know about cancer, the better you will be able to understand what’s happening to your body and the available treatments. Write your questions down so you don’t forget them. Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis and your treatment.
Express your feelings of anger, sadness and fear: Share your thoughts and feelings. Cancer affects every relationship that you have. Communication can help reduce the anxiety and fear that cancer can cause.
Join a support group: In addition to offering a safe haven for sharing one’s experiences, the support group process provides an instillation of hope where group members gain a sense of optimism about their prognosis.
Anticipate possible physical changes: Prepare yourself now so that you will be better able to cope later. Ask your physician what changes you should anticipate.
Find ways to help yourself relax: Be sure you are sleeping enough and taking time off for yourself. It is hard to accept help from others when you are completely exhausted.
Be as active as you can: Try to be as active and independent that you can, as much as possible. This can help you regain a sense of self-reliance and control. Your body fights stress better when you are physically fit.
Remember you still have a right to privacy: Set aside time to be alone. While it is important to vent your emotions, it does not come easy to everyone. It can be hard to talk about what you’re feeling and going through. Some ways you can vent your emotions include writing down your thoughts and feelings in a letter and letting yourself have a good cry.
Look at the things that you can control: Determine what is important in your life. Find time for the activities that are most important to you and give you the most meaning.
Don’t blame yourself for your cancer: Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
Get involved: Help spread the word about breast cancer. Help raise funds for cancer treatment and research. Join a breast cancer campaign such as Florida Hospital’s Pink Army. These efforts not only help you fight back against the disease, but can help save lives as well.