Being diagnosed with breast cancer is likely to be one of the most emotionally challenging and difficult experiences of a person’s life. This difficulty can be magnified when the person diagnosed with breast cancer is a loved one. Undergoing treatment for breast cancer can be traumatic, especially as the patient’s body undergoes drastic changes. Perhaps worst of all, the treatment for breast cancer can be incredibly invasive and wear out a person both physically and mentally.
The painful emotions that come with a breast cancer diagnosis, as well as the subsequent treatment, might never be harder to deal with than during the holidays when your family comes together to celebrate the end of the year and the onset of the new year.
Here are a few things you can do to help yourself or a loved one cope with a breast cancer diagnosis during the holidays:
Talk It Out: There is nothing wrong with expressing yourself and sharing your feelings about a breast cancer diagnosis with close friends and family members. In fact, talking about the situation can potentially make the illness more manageable as you move through the physical recovery process and your body heals from medical treatment. Talking things out with a loved one, or with a trained professional, is a good way to manage your anxiety about your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, sharing your feelings in an open and honest way can help to ensure that you don’t lash out at the people you love — the people who just want to make sure that you are alright during this difficult time.
Come Up with a Schedule: Once you start getting medical help for your illness, you may find that performing daily tasks is harder than usual. Even the simplest tasks — such as getting dressed in the morning, picking up groceries from the store, or preparing meals — may present great difficulty when you are physically and mentally exhausted from treatment. One way to combat this is to start planning now and create a schedule of things you think you can really do after treatment begins. Additionally, try to include other people in your schedule so that they know if and when their assistance might be needed.
Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable: You’ve probably spent your whole adult life taking care of yourself. Now, it’s time to let yourself be taken care of by those who love you. Don’t close yourself off from others as you go through this emotionally and physically challenging process. You need to stay close with your friends and family members and let them help you. This will not only make your recovery process easier, but it will also encourage the people closest to you to stay involved in your life.
How You Look Can Affect How You Feel: It’s possible that you will lose your hair and suffer other adverse physical consequences during chemotherapy. Do not underestimate just how much this can affect your outlook and feelings about the cancer treatment. If you are not in the right mental state, your treatment could be impacted. So, take steps now to prepare by researching wigs, breast prostheses, and other options that might help you to feel good after surgery or treatment.
Try to Maintain Closeness with Your Spouse: As you undergo chemotherapy, surgery, or other medical treatment options for your cancer diagnosis, your body is likely to experience some pretty drastic changes and transformations. One of the first things that might disappear — at least temporarily — during cancer treatment is your sex drive. Remember that you are part of a loving relationship with another person, so try to be open and honest about your desires and needs. Let them know that you still care about them, even if you can’t be physically intimate with them during the cancer treatment. If you are unable to maintain physical closeness with your spouse, at least try to maintain emotional closeness with them.
Don’t Be Shy About Discussing Your Treatment with Doctors: It is important that you do not shy away from discussing your cancer treatment with your doctors and nurses. When you have a negative health reaction to a particular type of treatment, immediately notify your medical treatment providers so that they can properly evaluate you and determine if the medical plan should change going forward. Some chemotherapy drugs like Taxotere can have side effects that include permanent hair loss. If you find yourself suffering complications from Taxotere or some other cancer treatment drug, alert your doctors immediately so that appropriate action can be taken to correct the problem.
Talk to a Mental Health Professional: Cancer does not just take a toll on the body; it can also have a profoundly negative effect on the mind. Many cancer patients get depressed, particularly during chemotherapy. Safeguard yourself against depression by talking to a trained mental health professional on a regular basis during your cancer treatment.
Research It: If you are physically up to the task, take some time to research your cancer diagnosis and inform yourself of the various aspects of the illness and how it is likely to affect you. There are a lot of good websites out there that provide invaluable information about cancer symptoms, causes, and treatment options, as well as national and regional cancer statistics. There is something empowering about understanding your breast cancer diagnosis and everything that is likely to come with the illness before it starts to overpower you.
You may be experiencing a flood of emotions after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. That’s normal. What is most important now is that you get the love and support you need to make it through this difficult health situation. And please keep in mind that every person who is diagnosed with breast cancer reacts differently and will likely have unique coping mechanisms for dealing with the diagnosis. There is no one right answer for responding to a breast cancer diagnosis.