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It’s a diagnosis no one wants to receive: breast cancer. In those confusing, difficult days after the diagnosis, it’s hard to know what you should be doing and who you should be turning to for help.
We know nurses are there on the front lines, fighting cancer with their patients every single day, so we asked our Facebook fans for the advice they’d give a newly-diagnosed breast cancer patient. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, read on for their smart, touching and strengthening words of wisdom.
1. It’s okay to cry. Then pick yourself up and don’t let it get the best of you. Take it one day at a time.
2. Sometimes you have to find the humor in the situation. I know I did when I received my devastating diagnosis. I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and I likened it as: At least I’ll always have 25-year-old boobs even when I’m 95!
3. As a nurse and also a breast cancer survivor, the first thing I did was allow myself what I now refer to as the “3-Day Plan.” Day 1: Allow yourself the time to fall apart, cry, scream and curse at the world. Day 2: Tell those whom you will count on the most about the cancer. By telling others about it, it really hits home and becomes real. Day 3: Make a plan…research all options, seek advice from others and fight back!
4. Have been there, done that. Everyone diagnosed owes it to themselves to get a second opinion at a national cancer center like Sloan-Kettering, Dana-Farber or Roswell, to name a few. You need to know the latest advances in cancer treatment and to have all your slides and scans gone over by the true cancer experts. You don’t need to get treatment from them, but at least you’ll know if your oncologist is spot-on with what they are recommending for treatment. I am so glad we did this for my son, a 7-year stem cell transplant survivor. Every time a doctor was wishy-washy, we went back to the cancer institute for advice.
5. Never forget that you are beautiful.
6. As a nurse and a 10-year cancer survivor:
ALWAYS advocate for yourself. If you feel like you’re being pushed into a treatment, you have to push back and ask why, and demand transparency about side effects and risks vs. benefits ratios.
Take someone with you to appointments, so that they can be a second pair of ears and eyes (it’s easy to be so overwhelmed you miss info).
Ask one friend or family member to be the go-between you and all the well-meaning folks who want to bring you food or “do something” to “help.” That go-between can let people know what you can/cannot eat, whether you’re up for a visit, where to send get well cards, etc. Believe me, it is a blessing to have someone else handle this.
Second opinion. ALWAYS.
7. First, cry…then get a plan of attack together. Surround yourself with a village that will lift and carry you when it gets tough. Know that the road is tough, but there are resources to help and guide. Say “yes” to any and all help, whether it be a meal or someone offering to clean the house.
8. As a breast cancer nurse, I always tell my patients, it’s ok to be mad, angry and to cry–you’re human!
Understand that we, as your healthcare team, are here to destroy the cancer, not your quality of life. So, speak up, ask questions and know that although each journey is unique, you’re not alone!
9. Breathe. Get a second opinion. Inform yourself; knowledge is power. Develop a support group. Pray. And never, EVER give up!
10. Take a deep breath, fight like hell and live like a survivor.
Newly diagnosed? Visit Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a resource to connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a network of support.
Nurses, what advice would you give a patient or fellow nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below.