Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be very scary. We all read the headlines and from a young age, most of us have heard that “women have a one in eight chance of developing invasive breast cancer sometime during their lifetime” (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-key-statistics). If we don’t get it ourselves, nearly all of us know someone who has it, had it or perhaps even died from it.
At the same time, unless you are a breast cancer patient or survivor yourself (or your mother, sister or close friend is), most of us know relatively little about the disease and how it is managed today. And, when it’s suddenly you who just received the diagnosis, very often you will feel a surge of fear.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of the disease. Fear of food. Fear of dying. Fear of chemotherapy, losing your hair, feeling sick all the time, and missing out on your daughter’s (or son’s) wedding or some other momentous celebration in the future. All because of the breast cancer.
We even have a ritual name for it – some people call it the “C” word. Using the “C” word is just like never daring to say the name out loud of “the one who shall not be named” from the Harry Potter books.
It all comes back to fear and one of your jobs as a woman with breast cancer is to find a way to conquer your fears, and not let the disease ruin your life.
Having breast cancer today, is very different from what it was like even as recently as five or ten years ago. I can speak from experience, since I was initially diagnosed over 10 years ago. The number of new treatments coming into the market on practically a monthly basis, the quality of diagnostic testing, and the whole approach to patient care is so very different now, and is still constantly changing even as I write this post.
One of the ways I conquer my fears of breast cancer is to remind myself how far we’ve come in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Some of the drugs being given today, didn’t even exist five years ago, and more are being released into the marketplace all the time.
Fear can paralyze you and keep you from taking proper care of yourself and your disease. Don’t let this happen to you. If you’ve found a lump or abnormality in one of your breasts, run (do not walk) to your physician and get it checked out. If you’ve already been diagnosed, take charge and quell your fears by locating the very best medical team you can find to take care of your specific condition. Then, go back to your life, as best you can, and know that it will be alright.