Living Well after a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer turns life upside down – for both the patient and loved ones. Along with worrying about cancer care treatment, prognosis, access to resources, expected medical costs and the logistics of receiving services, there are many more emotional and personal aspects to face. Cancer patients wonder how their cancer diagnosis and treatment will affect personal relationships, intimacy, their ability to care for themselves and their family, and much more.
In spite of this, there are many things you can do to improve your life quality during treatment for breast cancer and after you’ve won your battle against it. Just as fighting breast cancer requires strength, determination and intentional action, so, too, does quality of life. When you make a plan and prioritize getting the care, self-care, support and resources you need, you can live well after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Here are some tips and priorities you can put in place to help improve life after cancer or a cancer diagnosis:
Educate yourself. When you are well informed about your diagnosis, treatment options and resources available to you, you have the best chance at both surviving cancer and living a better quality of life through your cancer journey. Whether you have been advised to have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, a combination approach or some other cancer therapy, get involved and be an active part of your care team. Ask questions and share what you’ve learned with your loved ones. Learn about side effects and what to expect throughout cancer treatment. The more you know, the better prepared and less fearful you will be.
Be proactive. Knowledge is only power if you do something with it. Advocate for your needs with your care team and your loved ones. Speak up, even if you’re used to caring for others. When you experience troubling side effects, communicate with your doctor instead of suffering in silence. Everyone experiences cancer differently, so it’s important to share your experience in order to get the right care and to help you live more comfortably as you work to get better.
Surround yourself with support. Even the strongest cancer patients need to be able to lean on others from time to time. Friends and family can lend support in your time of need – or you can request that your cancer care provider connect you with a social worker who can connect you to cancer help and support, including breast cancer support groups. Caring people and other cancer survivors can help ensure your emotional and physical needs are met throughout your cancer treatment and beyond.
Take care of your health. Even when faced with a schedule full of cancer therapy visits, be sure to prioritize your overall health. Get your teeth cleaned. Continue with other doctor visits and manage chronic conditions. Get some exercise. Eat right by getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats while avoiding excess sugar and processed foods. Participate in physical therapy meant to help you gain strength, reduce pain or increase mobility. And ask your doctor for strategies to help strengthen your immune system.
Reduce stress and care for your mental health. In our blog, we’ve talked a lot lately about stress management, and for good reason. Stress and physical health are closely intertwined; chronic stress can take a toll on physical health – and poor physical health can create stress and worsen mental health. A cancer diagnosis is unquestionably stressful, putting you at risk for anxiety and depression. As you progress through cancer treatment, be sure to set aside time each day for relaxation. Listen to music, take part in a favorite hobby, meditate, journal – something you enjoy. If needed, seek professional help, too.
Get in touch with your spiritual side. Many breast cancer patients and cancer survivors find that receiving a cancer diagnosis turns their focus more toward religion and spirituality. If this is the case for you, embrace it. Connect with others who share your faith and seek out faith-based resources.
Live in the moment. Regardless of what the future may bring, a breast cancer diagnosis may make you increasingly aware of the fleetingness of time. Therefore, use each day to its fullest, even if only in creating memories from small, everyday moments. Communicate with loved ones what you’ve always dreamed you could accomplish, and perhaps together you can share those dreams.
While we hope that you feel as well as possible throughout your breast cancer treatment, know that we at Avail Hospital are here to care for you when you need us. If you experience unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, fast heart rate or other concerning symptoms, see us right away for skilled, compassionate emergency care.