Breast Cancer Awareness – After a Cancer Diagnosis

Why is this National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

Because Cancer is big business in America. Below a few of the organizations that deal with the billions of dollars spent on cancer.

The American Cancer Society (ACS)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
The American College of Radiology (ACR)
The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)   
The AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation,
CancerCare  or call 800-813-HOPE (4673).
The Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) created by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)  
Men Against Breast Cancer (MABC)
National Medical Association (NMA)
The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS)
Prevent Cancer Foundation!   
Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
The National Cancer Institute (NCI)

How do we handle learning that someone we love is now going to face the cancer battle and all it entails? The reality is that cancer can strike anyone, not just those who seem to be “good candidates”. It can be any of us; it can be our mother, sister or daughter. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time for raising awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

Becoming aware of breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat is vital. What is even better take self-healing seriously and work to live a healthy lifestyle. Yet when you or a loved one has received a  diagnosis of cancer you need to make changes.

As with all large changes in life dealing with illness is a process. There is the initial reaction, normal stages of behavior – both for yourself and your loved ones, communication and accountability, coping mechanisms, healing, advocacy and much more; This blog is the beginning of series to give you all the initial tools needed for coping when the unthinkable diagnosis happens.

After the Cancer Diagnosis

You’ve just heard the cancer news; you or someone you care about has cancer. All sorts of emotions flood over you. You may become anxious, depressed, scared, angry and feeling helpless. It allows you to stay with all these emotions, your reactions could be out of control and even accelerate the disease.

You won’t know what to say to yourself or loved one and, let’s face it, there’s probably not much you can initially say that will be of any real consequence. For example, your daughter has just been handed devastating news of breast cancer and the emotions she is feeling could be similar to what you’re experiencing of course with the added stress that it’s happening to her.

Pain of the sick “Anatomy of Expression”, Bell 1806
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

At the beginning of the cancer journey, the very best thing you can do is to let her know you’re there, that you’ll help out wherever and however she needs. That might mean driving her to a doctor appointment, holding her hand while she undergoes treatment, or just lending an ear when she needs to talk.

Remember that it’s OK to talk about your feelings as well. Many cancer patients feel that they are living with a huge ‘elephant in the room.’ People are afraid to talk about “The C word” and tend to act as though any mention of it is going to cause them to become emotionally overwhelmed.

Talk with them about what they want from you or be very specific with what you need if it is your diagnosis.  Expectations and needs are complex but listening and talking are vital. If your loved one or friend has cancer, listen and follow their wishes. This may change over time, potentially from week to week, so make sure you leave the lines of communication open.

Don’t be afraid to be candid and ask questions, that is very important. It is important to a strong connection to sensitive to emotions. Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues, and laugh if needed for emotional wellness. It is important to relieve stress and steer the conversation in a different direction if things start to get too intense.

You’re going to have to consider your loved one’s personality along with the type of relationship you currently have. Is this a person with whom you are able to talk about most anything or is this someone with whom talk about feelings and personal issues might be less common?

A lot of the literature will tell you to keep your lives as normal as possible and this is one of those areas. Keep the status quo to some degree…however this is an excellent opportunity increase communication. Cancer can allow you to say things you were afraid to say. 

Be aware that one of the first reactions from a new cancer patient is withdrawal often to cut herself off emotionally. Withdrawing is a coping mechanism. Alternatively, she may large emotional swings, and in need of support and presence. At least more emotional than is typical. Both reactions are perfectly normal.

The key is to ask for help if you are the one diagnosed or to follow the lead of cancer patient. Remember, your goal is to support them in whatever way they find most comforting. Awareness of cancer, not fear of cancer is a key to emotional wellness which is important to the healing process.

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