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Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among women. In fact, it’s very likely that you know someone who has been diagnosed with it previously or is currently fighting the disease. Being diagnosed with the breast cancer can be a turning point in your life. You’ll have decisions to make, lifestyle changes to include and you’ll need lots of support. All of this can be slightly overwhelming especially soon after you have been diagnosed. Here’s how you can take control of the situation.
What To Do After Getting Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
1. Come To Terms With It
It’s not uncommon to go into a state of shock when first diagnosed. Some women experience fear, anger, disappointment, and grief. It’s always a great idea to step back and take a deep breath before going forward. Recognize your emotions and find people that you’re comfortable expressing them to. If you don’t effectively deal with your initial emotions healthily, you may find it more difficult to cope as the journey goes on.
2. Decide How Much You Want To Know
Some want to know everything about their diagnosis. The prognosis, the treatment, the likelihood of survival. Others wish to know only the bare minimum. Whatever path you choose, make sure you decide how much you want to know and let your doctor know about your decision. This is will help him/her make your treatment more comfortable for you.
3. Do Your Research
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything regarding your treatment. There is a lot of information available online that can help but this can also be scary. Remember to filter out some of what you read. If a website says that a certain type of cancer has a life expectancy of 5 years this may be because most people who get this cancer are in their 60s or 70s. If you are in your 30s, this may not apply to you. Take every bit of information with a grain of salt.
4. Bring Someone To Do The Listening
Most people notice that they don’t absorb what they hear in doctor’s appointments or meetings so it’s always a good idea to bring a friend along. Family members are often as upset as the patient so a friend is a better option. Let them write notes as well so that you can absorb the information at your own pace.
5. Meet With Others
It’s encouraging to meet others who have also been diagnosed with breast cancer. You may get new insights about treatments options and coping mechanisms. You may also find that you need the support of those who can truly empathize with you and understand the struggles you face. If you can’t find a breast cancer support group in your town, there are plenty of forums online that provide the same support.
6. Form A Supportive Team
Pick out people in your family and friend circle that can be counted on to provide social and emotional support. There may be some activities or daily chores that may become difficult for you to do over time. It’s good to enlist the help of people who are reliable. Instead of scrambling around for support when you need it, keep a constant mental note of names of people that you can call on at any time.
7. Eat Healthy
Studies have shown that diets do have an effect on preventing progress and recurrence of breast cancer.[ref]Low-Fat Diet May Have Small Impact on Breast Cancer in Women. National Cancer Institute. [/ref]Fill your diet with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and lentils. Make sure that only a 1/3 of your plate is food that is derived from animals. If you include dairy, make sure it is low fat. You must keep saturated fats to a minimum but a daily allowance of 2–3 tablespoons of healthy fats like olive oil and canola oil is fine to include. Try to cut out processed foods that are high in sugar, refined or otherwise. It’s also a good idea to limit your alcohol intake if not cut it out completely.[ref]Willett, W. C. “Diet and breast cancer.” Journal of internal medicine 249, no. 5 (2001): 395-411.[/ref]
8. Do Some Exercise
Research shows that women who exercise and shed some amount of weight show less likelihood of cancer progressing. Those in remission who maintain a healthy body weight also show a lower incidence of recurrence.[ref]Farr, Alex, Myriam Stolz, Lukas Baumann, Zsuzsanna Bago-Horvath, Elisabeth Oppolzer, Georg Pfeiler, Michael Seifert, and Christian F. Singer. “The effect of obesity on pathological complete response and survival in breast cancer patients receiving uncapped doses of neoadjuvant anthracycline-taxane-based chemotherapy.” The Breast 33 (2017): 153-158.[/ref ] You can engage in light aerobic activity like walking. Other exercises you can do include yard work, gardening, walking the dog, cycling etc.
Being diagnosed with cancer can lead to a lot of stress and agitation. You may have a lot of thoughts racing through your head at any given point. Meditation is a good coping mechanism to help you overcome this. Try deep breathing exercises to help calm your mind and bring clarity of thought.
Breast cancer can be a very stressful experience with lots of hurdles and struggles. Be sure to enlist the support of close family and friends who will provide strength when you can’t find it in yourself.