"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Advice to Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients

It has been over a year since my diagnosis and in that time I have learned so much and come such a long way.  I recently signed up to be a peer to peer counselor for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.  I have spent some time thinking about all of the things I have experienced and learned in the last year.  It is overwhelming to really think about.  I guess it got me thinking that some people reading this may be newly diagnosed and I wanted to share my most key learning's in case it helps others going through this breast cancer nightmare.

1.  Get second opinion and weigh ALL of your options.  I think that even if you think you may get a lumpectomy you should meet with a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon and just hear what everyone has to say.  Get second opinions for both too.  I did and found hearing what each of the surgeons had to say helped me make a decision I could live with.
2.  You don't have to lose your hair during chemo. Penguin Cold Caps can work for some people depending on which chemo you have.  I had taxotere and cytoxan and the cold caps worked for me.  I finished chemo with a full head of hair and after chemo was able to move on with my life and not broadcast that I had cancer to the world.  Most doctors will not tell you about cold caps and if you bring it up, they will tell you they don't work.  I am telling you they DO work.  I have photos posted on here back in September that proves it. 
3.  Consider more medications!  I was always the type of person that never took motrin for a headache.  I hated taking medications.  Now I embrace medications that will help me. I am on tamoxifen and welcome it because it will hopefully keep me healthy despite some of the side effects.  I also welcome xanax at night to help me sleep and lexapro to keep me calm and reduce my anxiety over dealing with breast cancer.  Honestly I would never in a million years think I would take xanax or lexapro, but I am glad I do have them and it has made things a lot better for me.  Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about this.  Breast cancer is a lot to deal with so there is nothing wrong with a little help.
4.  Connect with people that "get it"!  I am fortunate to get a lot of support online from other women that are going through breast cancer too.  I still participate in online message boards and a private facebook chat group of dear friends I met through having breast cancer.  I could not have gotten through this without my good friends that are also living this nightmare along with the message boards where I have gotten great advice and support. 
5.  Don't let your anticipation get the best of you.  Every step of the way I worried and had huge anxiety over what was to come.  I was an emotional wreck and freaked myself out so bad before each procedure or chemo and expected the worst.  What I found is that most things were actually easier than I anticipated (don't get me wrong...it was not cakewalk!).  I just had extreme fear of the unknown and made it worse in my head that it actually was. 
6.  Don't think about the "big picture".  Take it one step at a time.  I think if you look at the entire breast cancer road ahead of you, it is just way too much.  I did better just focusing on the next step I had to deal with and not the whole thing all at once.  This kept me a little more sane!
7.  People act stupid when the word "cancer" comes up.  People just don't know how to act.  Many people will let you down while you go through breast cancer treatment and surgeries.  Some people that you think really care about you won't even acknowledge your cancer or offer to help.  Some don't even call.  In time I have grown to realize it does not mean they don't care, they just don't know what to say or how to act, so they do nothing.  I won't lie, it hurt me a lot that some people acted like they were ignoring me, but I really think they just didn't know how to process it. 
8.  Exercise is important.  I exercised daily through chemo and treatment other then when I was instructed not to exercise.  It helped me physically and emotionally.  Exercise not only made my body stronger, but helped reduce my stress levels.  I think it also helped me focus on feeling GOOD, not crappy through treatment.
9.  Attitude matters - A LOT!  I told myself I would not be that sick girl going through chemo...and I wasn't.  I got up every day and exercised and tried to do everything I normally did before chemo on a daily basis.  The more I kept moving and acting normal, I did not focus on being sick from chemo.  Granted some people take chemo harder than I did, but I do believe the more you buy into feeling like crap, you will feel like crap.  Just my opinion. 
10.  Remove bad foods and toxic items from your life.  I read The Anti Cancer book and it helped me understand which foods are bad for cancer patients and that actually fuel cancer.  I have been able to adjust my eating to make me healthier and hopefully decrease my odds of recurrence.  I have also read a lot on the internet about toxic ingredients and hormones in body care products.  I have also changed make up, lotions, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hair color, cookware, plastic containers, water bottles and cleaning supplies.  The world is full of toxic chemicals so I am avoiding the ones I can avoid.  It takes a lot of time to research this stuff, but it is worth it.

I am sure there are countless other things I have learned, but these are the things that stand out the most in my mind right now.  Breast cancer is a long, complicated and exhausting process.  I am sure I will continue to learn more things as I move forward surviving breast cancer. 


  1. Great advice here. I especially like #4. Without the support of my new on-line friends who "get it," I don't know what kind of shape I'd be in now emotionally. After a cancer diagnosis, emotional well-being is so important and sadly, too often a neglected topic.

  2. Thanks for the advice and health tips shared to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.
    It is worth to read and to know about.
    Nice sharing and keep posting.

  3. Thank you for your advice. You answered alot of things I was thinking about tonight. It seems that something is guiding through this journey, when I find answers to my questions kinda haphazardly.

  4. Mary, my heart goes out to you. I was in the same place as you this time last year. Just realize that a year later, things are much better. Keep your eye on the goal of having treatment done and your life back. I am sorry you have to go through this too. I am glad my ramblings have helped you. Hugs! Keep me posted on how you are doing.

  5. This is such great information. I wish you well. I also write a blog with tips and hints for newly diagnosed women. My blog is at http://www.baldisbetterwithearrings.com.