|SUE - a breast cancer survivor||
Wow, boy is that a loaded question! I often find that I am talking to a patient very shortly after they receive the diagnosis of breast cancer and they are reeling. They are on information overload and the misconceptions of what is next is drowning every thought process they have. It is often difficult for families to know what to say at this time and I find I walk into a silent room with tears flowing from those sitting their awaiting my entrance. First and foremost.... LISTEN. We often want to rush in and fix things, saying things like," it will be fine!" You may hear things like, " Am I going to die,and more disparaging thoughts." LISTEN, yes, LISTEN. I may acknowlege their feelings by saying something like, "I see how upsetting this is, or it must be so frustrating to suddenly have this diagnosis." Recognizing where they are at that moment in time and allowing them to vent is the most important thing you can do. This is not something you can fix but something you can help them get through. Your advice is not needed unless they ask for it and getting yourself informed and educated from reputable organizations is key. Whatever decision that is chosen, support them in their choices. This is not just a physical treatment, it is mind and body and we must consider all the aspects and ramifications of what having breast cancer means. I have met many women who are devastated by the thought of losing their hair, I for one did not have any great dread as it is only hair in my estimation and it doesn't define me nor did it affect me in my choices. A big one that is often forgotten is the caregiver and the needs that they have. They are the go to person, the one that takes the patient to all the appointments and treatment and all the related tasks as well as emotional support and often are lost in the mix of this all. Give them time to vent and again LISTEN! Try to help this family maintain what normalcy that you can also also keep in touch as well as offerring specific help. Don't just offer, " call me with whatever you need." Tell them I am bringing Chicken Parmesan over on Thursday night at 6 and I will run the sweeper and do a load of laundry while I am there. Do you have anything you need me to pick up at the store on my way over? Also the last bit of advice is when treatment is over, there is a new normal and life is not the same. The focus has changed and some of those bothersome appointments and support is gone and now to find what you are and your life and your partner's life is, may lead to some concerns. Finally, use your health team to meet your needs, answer your questions, and listen to you. We are here to help! Remember today as always -TO MAKE IT A GREAT DAY!