5 tips for finding the support you need for breast cancer

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Being diagnosed with breast cancer can seem daunting at first, but getting the help you need can ease the burden of treatment and survival.

Learning the news that you have breast cancer can be overwhelming.

I will never forget the day in 2018 that I was diagnosed. One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and now I am.

After the shock, you feel worried about having a serious illness. First of all, there are a lot of good wishes. Later, you may want the support of someone who understands what you are going through.

Support is crucial when it comes to navigating and following treatment. A 2017 study suggests that there is a link between having a strong social support network and breast cancer survival. A 2020 study found that women with strong support after a diagnosis were more likely to be active participants in their cancer care.

Fortunately, beyond family and friends, there is so much support available after being diagnosed with breast cancer. However, I know firsthand that finding the support you need can take a long time when you’re already exhausted.

Here’s where to start.

The first place to start is your oncologist’s office. Your doctor will have a staff member, social worker, or case manager who will work with you to explain the terms, treatment options, and advise you.

Ask as many questions as possible. Often the office will have a list of local resources. A nurse at my doctor’s office gave me an information package on organizations that offer support groups, trips to appointments, and financial assistance.

Save all the resources you receive in case you need them later.

Cancer can make you feel lonely and isolated. Finding a supportive community can help you be proactive in your treatment and connect with others from anywhere.

“Being connected with other patients and survivors can help alleviate feelings of isolation and normalize difficult emotional and physical experiences during medical treatment,” says Debra Howard, PhD, a registered clinical social worker who treats patients with the disease. breast cancer.

Find a support network you trust. There are many types of groups led by survivors, professionals, and organizations that provide help, resources, and advice for you and your caregiver online, over the phone, or in person.

Here are some organizations to start with:

Additionally, online communities, like the BC Healthline Peer Support Community, can be an accessible and convenient way to meet other people who know what it is. The community is easy to navigate and very useful. You can participate in nightly live chats and view general discussions on a wide variety of breast cancer topics.

The stress of living with breast cancer can be overwhelming. It’s important to make sure you put yourself first.

Additional options, in addition to standard care, can be beneficial.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines complementary and alternative medicine as medical products and services which are not part of standard care, but which can help you cope with side effects, fatigue and anxiety, while giving you a feeling of autonomy.

Here are some examples of complementary therapies:

Check nearby schools and universities, or NCI-designated cancer centers listing, to find additional services.

I found that the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health Systems offered a weekly program of complementary interventions. For several months, I participated in nutrition education, art and music therapy, meditation, fitness and chaplaincy services that helped reduce my anxiety.

The Center offers complementary care interventions for survivors, because “science and research have shown that these interventions are very powerful and can increase the chances of patients staying well emotionally and physically, and also reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. breast and other cancers, ”explains Carmen. Calfa, MD, medical breast oncologist and co-director of Cancer Survivorship and Translational Behavioral Sciences at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Calfa encourages her patients to know what they need and to be their best advocates.

“Know that the treatment does not stop with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery and that there are other treatments that do not have side effects and yet have a significant advantage,” says- she.

Despite all the care, love, and support, depression can increase as the management of treatment takes over your life.

“It’s not uncommon for patients with severe illness to feel overwhelmed, and it’s important that they go at their own pace when they are struggling,” Howard explains.

To find a therapist experienced in working with people living with breast cancer, you can ask your oncologist or personal network, or visit CancerCare.org. The organization helps patients counsel over the phone and find local resources.

It’s important to have people who can support you through a difficult time. Asking for help can help you feel that you are not fighting on your own.

Cancer care is expensive, even if you have good insurance. Financial worries can impact your ability to take care of yourself during treatment.

Adding a Financial Advisor to your treatment team can help relieve stress.

Also, be sure to ask your doctor or treatment center for cost estimates and assistance programs. Many doctors and hospitals partner with foundations and organizations to help them with finances and daily expenses.

Make sure to check the qualifications. Some programs require you to be in treatment or have a time limit after treatment.

Trying to manage your life and your treatment on your own can be overwhelming.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can seem daunting at first, but having a network, connecting with others, and getting the help you need can ease the burden of treatment and survival.


Mischa Bergeron is a South Florida-based content strategist and freelance writer. She is a breast cancer survivor who writes on education, health and wellness. You can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.


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