Monday, November 23, 2009

Tips for Coping With Breast Cancer by Lorraine Murray

I came acroos this piece online. It was written by Lorraine Murray, a breast cancer survivor. Since it is fitting for this blog, I would like to share it with you. Marcy

Tips for Coping with Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is by turns frightening, overwhelming, and exhausting—but a few deceptively simple tips can help women cope with the emotional and physical challenges they face. Collected here are some coping techniques from survivor Lorraine Murray, author of Grace Notes, a book about her spiritual journey. You'll also find help with wigs, conquering fear, dealing with finances, and moving on with life.

Let some things go.
At least once a day, say, “Who cares?” and let go of old rigid ways of living. If the house isn’t in tip-top shape, say, “Who cares?” If you forgot to floss your teeth, just let it go. This technique helps reduce stress.
Let your hair down.
Right after the diagnosis, it helps to confide in someone who can handle whatever emotions you may express. Find someone you feel completely safe with – a sweetheart, a friend, a sister, a minister or rabbi, a counselor –and really let it all out.
Find people to hug.
Initiate a hug whenever you feel the need for comfort. People will respond warmly -- and you’ll feel better.
Tap into your faith.
Every religion offers comfort to help endure life’s trials. You may want to join a prayer group at your synagogue or church if you belong to one. It can also help to read inspirational books and/or scripture. Find favorite prayers and say them often.
Be patient with yourself.
There will come a day when your diagnosis is not the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning. For the first few months, though, you may find yourself dwelling on the diagnosis and reliving the events of surgery and other treatments. This is perfectly normal.
Give yourself time to cry.
You may find yourself grieving as if you’d lost your best friend. This is the result of shock and is also perfectly normal. You may cry often for a few months, and it may help with emotional healing. But if crying is not your way of handling stress, that’s fine too. Everyone is different.
Take naps.
Naps are immensely therapeutic, especially if you’re undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. Even 20 minutes can make a big difference in your mood and overall sense of well-being. Even long after your diagnosis and treatment, naps can help.
Set limits.
If you are feeling overwhelmed – by work duties, household tasks, social commitments – it’s time to make some changes. Make a list of what you have to do each day and figure out what can be postponed – or what can be delegated to someone else. It’s okay to say “no.” It is also okay to pare back on volunteer activities and social commitments.
Ask for help.
If you have small children and many commitments, enlist a friend or relative to help you. You’ll find that people are eager to help. When they ask you what they can do, have some specifics in mind, like “Could you watch Johnny on Friday afternoon when I go to the doctor’s office?” or “Could you pick up some groceries for me?”
Get the support you need.
A nearby support group for women with breast cancer can help considerably. Or you may draw emotional support from family and friends. One-on-one support is available from breast cancer survivors through the Reach to Recovery program.
Do nice things for yourself.
So often we equate being nice to ourselves with buying things. But you can treat yourself without running up your credit card debt. Check out books from the library, rent a funny video, feed the ducks at the lake, ask your sweetie for a foot massage, take a hot bath. And if you need to sleep 10 hours a night, give yourself permission to do it.
Forgive yourself.
You may forget a dentist’s appointment or neglect to send Aunt Martha a birthday card. You may not feel like returning phone calls. It’s okay. People will understand.
Don’t blame yourself.
No one knows what causes breast cancer. Don’t try to figure out what you did to bring on this illness. There are no answers.
Finding a wig. Check mail order suppliers such as the American Cancer Society's “tlc”, which has an online catalogue. They also feature breast forms, “pocketed” nightgowns and other products for women going through cancer treatment. Or call your local American Cancer Society office for stores nearby.
Handling financial issues.
Your local hospital or clinic will have a social worker, who can help you manage financial issues and deal with private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. You can also find the ACS I Can Cope program in your area, which offers free educational classes for people with cancer, their families, and friends. Sessions include, “Taking Charge of Money Matters.”
Specifics on your disease.
Bring your questions to the health professionals who lead the I Can Cope courses mentioned above. The program covers cancer development, treatment, side effects, new research, relieving cancer pain, nutritional well-being and more.
Sex after breast cancer treatment.
The physical changes made by surgery and/or breast reconstruction don’t have to cause problems in a woman’s sex life, and ACS offers practical advice practical advice on how to continue a fulfilling sexual relationship. Research shows most women with early stage breast cancer have good emotional adjustment and sexual satisfaction by a year after surgery. They report a quality of life similar to women who never had cancer.
Remember that you are not alone.
There are millions of women who are making this journey with you. And millions of women have survived breast cancer for many years. You are a survivor too.
Lorraine Murray is a freelance writer living in Decatur, Ga. She was a contributor to A Breast Cancer Journey: Your Personal Guidebook, published by the American Cancer Society.
More Breast Cancer Awareness Month Special Features

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