Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis
Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. You might find several different feelings come up when you’re told you have cancer — it’s not uncommon to feel confused, angry, afraid, guilty, and numb. But remember that having some or all of these feelings is healthy and normal. Each individual reacts in their own way, and experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. If you need guidance navigating the complex emotions that come up with such a diagnosis, here are seven tips for helping you cope better:
1. Share your feelings
Talking about your feelings isn’t always easy, especially after a breast cancer diagnosis. But talking to friends and family can help you process your emotions and feel better supported. If you need extra support during this time, consider reaching out to a mental health therapist who can help you deal with feelings and thoughts as they come up and learn healthy coping strategies.
2. Reach out for support
Don’t be afraid to seek support as you navigate your diagnosis and treatment. Be specific about the kind of support you need. For example, you can ask loved ones to go grocery shopping or drive you to your next medical appointment. This gives people a clear way to help.
3. Prioritize self-care
Throughout the treatment process, which can include surgery and/or chemotherapy, it’s vital that you incorporate self-care into your daily life, which can look like many different things. For instance, some women feel uncomfortable with their appearance, but exploring breast prostheses and wigs can help them to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
4. Get all the information
Knowing all the basic facts about breast cancer and preparing ahead of time for medical appointments can help you stay informed and feel in control. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your care team to ask essential questions about your treatment plan and clarify anything you don’t understand.
5. Allow yourself to rest
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause fatigue, nausea, and pain, along with other side effects. As a result, your body may have reduced capacity. During treatment, allow yourself to rest as much as possible and give yourself permission to change plans as needed — you might find that your energy levels are different than before starting treatment, and that’s okay.
6. Focus on the present moment
It’s natural for the mind to wander, especially when facing uncertainty. However, continuously thinking about what the future holds can increase stress and anxiety. Try to ground yourself in the present moment, utilizing mindfulness exercises or meditation. These practices can help to calm the mind and reduce feelings of overwhelm. Remember, it’s okay to take each day as it comes and to focus on what you can control right now.
7. Engage in activities that bring joy
Even with a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s crucial to find moments of joy and happiness in your life. Consider engaging in activities that uplift your spirit, whether it’s reading, painting, listening to music, or even taking short walks in nature. Finding pockets of positivity can help to counterbalance the stress and anxiety that might come with the diagnosis and treatment. This doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings but rather ensuring you have a balance in your life to help maintain your overall well-being.
Connect with your care team
Remember that your team of doctors, nurses, and social workers are valuable resources of support as you cope with a breast cancer diagnosis and can help you get connected to support groups and individual counseling as needed.