Since the earliest days of modern medicine a diagnosis of breast cancer has struck fear into the hearts of women and the people who loved them—and Frances Burney’s account of her 1811 pre-anaesthesia surgery didn’t help (though it is fascinating, and ultimately uplifting, since she survived the cancer and lived another 29 years). Although modern medicine now offers a wide range of treatment options that give many women, and men, a chance to fight the disease and continue to live a whole and fulfilling life, the diagnosis can still be particularly tough on one’s mental health. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, here are several steps to begin by taking.
Find the Right Medical Care
First, of course you must enlist the best team of doctors you can find. If surgery is part of your treatment, seek a breast surgeon instead of a general surgeon. Breast surgeons specialize in creating the best possible outcome both in terms of eradicating the disease and leaving the patient as physically whole as possible. They will also guide you in finding the rest of your medical team of oncologists, radiologists and plastic surgeons, if needed.
Talk to People Who Know What it’s Like
Seek to build a support group as quickly as possible. There are more women around you who share your diagnosis than you might suspect. You may find women in your family, in your church, at work, on the Internet or in the doctor’s waiting room who are more than eager to share the struggles and the victories of the journey. No one knows the inside of your head as well as another traveler on the road.
Set New Goals
The diagnosis of breast cancer can seem like the end of the road when the first shock hits. It’s not. If you can believe that and start working towards the next big step in your life plan, you will be well on your way to winning the battle on at least one level.
Re-Think How to Spend Your Time
Accept the fact that a breast cancer diagnosis is giving you the gift of receiving a wake-up call. Even if this isn’t the bullet that will take you down, you should now realize, beyond any level of denial, that something eventually will. It’s time to embrace each day as a gift and take every opportunity to live, laugh and love.
Seek Positive Inspiration
By now we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a clear connection between mind and body—and while a positive attitude alone isn’t going to cure your disease, it can do quite a bit to hasten your recovery and improve your quality of life throughout the ordeal. You may want to avoid the people who have the worst case scenario stories to tell. It won’t help you to know about the people whose lives were horribly changed forever, who suffered unmercifully from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, or who were diagnosed one day and died the next. This is your journey and you should seek out every way possible to encourage, inspire, and motivate your success.
Breast cancer today is a very different battle from the one fought by past generations of women and, in some cases, men. Everyone facing this diagnosis needs to know there is a world of support and successful treatment options available, and that no fight is over the moment it starts. Diagnosis happens, and then it’s time to act.