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With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will see endless support extending from individuals and companies to sports teams, and many more. However, along with the pink ribbons and fundraisers, there are 264,000 women and 2,400 men diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
As I sat down to write this article, I started jotting down tips, ways to find support and where to turn for resources in hopes of providing some reassurance to those affected by a breast cancer diagnosis — but then I thought, who better to help people through an emotional diagnosis than those who have been through it? So, I sat down with my husband and called my in-laws.
My mother-in-law and father-in-law have both battled and beat breast cancer!
During our conversation, my husband recalled his own thoughts and feelings from one of the moments that stopped his family in their tracks. “I remember my dad having a positive mindset from the beginning, and although I am sure there was a moment of fear or uncertainty, he didn’t show it — he almost joked it off. The chemo was hard on him, and it made him pretty sick, but he remained optimistic, confident and focused on his work and family. It was actually inspiring and made an impression on me.”
My father-in-law confirmed. He didn’t think of it as a terminal disease, but instead as an illness that he would overcome.
Of course, everyone reacts differently, and others may not have such a positive outlook. That was echoed by my mother-in-law who said, “I was so scared and tried to prepare myself for the worst as soon as my diagnosis was confirmed. I was scared for myself, for my family and even for things like losing my hair — which ended up being by far the most traumatic part of it.”
My husband said that he remained positive for his mom, which he thinks stemmed from his father’s experience. He stated that, “there was no reason to act otherwise. Just remain positive and try to reframe her negative thoughts while showing support.”
After chatting with them about their individual diagnoses and feelings, I rattled off my list of researched items comprised of education, tips and encouragement to see what fit their experiences. Some they agreed with, some they never considered and others were suggestions they gave me!
So, if you or a loved one encounters a breast cancer diagnosis, evaluate how you are feeling, and see what you can add to your lifestyle to enhance your outlook, mental health and energy.
- Include your support system.
Consider bringing a friend or a family member with you to your appointments. They can help remember all you hear from the doctor — that will be helpful in case your mind ping-pongs from actively listening, to reflecting on your thoughts, personal health or future.
Talk to your friend or family member about how much you want to know. Are you a full facts and details person who doesn’t want any questions left unanswered? Or do you want to know the important things first, and allow yourself to digest that for a while? They can help advocate for you!
- Find support groups or other cancer patients.
The best people to feel heard by are those who have gone through it. Ask your provider if there are any support groups you can join, or if there are other patients they can help you connect with. Although everyone has different experiences, you may find comfort in talking with someone who has gone through the same process.
- Define your goals and priorities.
Be open with your friends and family — do you want to talk about your diagnosis, or do you want to talk about other things going on in life? This can help drive conversation when they know what you are open to talking about and what you are not. It can also prevent people from awkwardly tiptoeing around each other.
Make a list of what is most important to you. This will help ground you from those negative thoughts and feelings circling in your brain, and will help you prioritize where you want to spend your time. Cancel activities that do not fit your list and drain your energy.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A cancer diagnosis can make you feel stressed, overwhelmed, sad, fearful or, like my father-in-law, bring out motivation to be the best you can. No matter what you are feeling, make time for your routine; move your body, eat meals, practice mindfulness and get enough sleep.
With or without cancer, you do not have to have a perfect health routine to reap the benefits — make sure you are fitting in these items to help keep your mental and physical health running efficiently.
- Accept the help.
Many of us are used to taking care of households, pets, children and loved ones, and focusing on our careers. But sometimes to keep all the plates spinning in the air, you need to accept help from others.
Allowing someone to run errands for you, take you to appointments, prepare meals or even do household chores will allow you to conserve the energy you will need for treatments or time spent on your goals and priorities, as mentioned before — and believe me, people want to help!
About the Author
Claire's Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Organizations are in a constant state of change and the Kinetiq Health team supports them every step of the way. A unique formula of people, processes and technologies enables our team to keep an educated eye on the financial and clinical implications of data to move organizations toward improved financial health and employee well-being.