Now that October – designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – is here, a focus for women is early detection and improved treatments. As a breast cancer survivor myself, I have participated in many Walks over the years and this weekend I again joined with other families to raise funds for finding a cure. Each time I have walked with others to support research, I find that what we really support is each other. The camaraderie and sisterhood that comes from walking together and working together to fight breast cancer transforms a feeling of helplessness to a powerful sense of control.
Worldwide over 1 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common one facing American women today. The likelihood is that 1 in 8 women in America will need to cope with this disease during her lifetime.
With mammography, MRI and physical exams leading to early detection, most breast cancers can be successfully treated today. With improved therapies, there are between 2 and 3 million American women living today who have survived breast cancer. As breast cancer survivors have learned, coping with any serious illness can take a toll on you – emotionally as well as physically. We’ve got some tips this week to help manage your recovery so that you can move forward with your life and become more resilient:
Turn to others for support. Your family and friends can provide a network of comfort, encouragement and assistance. You may also want to join a breast cancer support group, either in person or on-line. Support is helpful in several ways – it gives you someone to listen to you when you need to express yourself, someone to give you information and feedback, someone to help you with practical matters such as an errand that needs to be done. Support will be there for you if you look for it. It may feel awkward at first to ask for help, but you’ll find friends want to do what they can for you.
Begin to set new goals for yourself. When you’re first diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel like your life is completely out of control. To regain a sense of direction, reflect on what priorities are important to you and then set a goal within your reach. Identify your strengths and build on them as you plan how to achieve your objectives. You may want to start a journal to help you consider strategies and options. Initiate your plan in small steps and review your progress regularly.
Look for ways to draw something positive out of the experience. Women who are able to find some positive meaning in such a negative situation often experience growth as well as a greater sense of control and feelings of confidence and optimism. Think about how you can use the unique perspective you have gained to make the rest of your life richer and more meaningful. Nancy G. Brinker supported her sister Susan in her unsuccessful fight against breast cancer and later founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It has become the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists and the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to winning the fight Susan ultimately lost.
You may feel overwhelmed by the challenges you are facing after breast cancer and that you don’t have the energy to cope with it all. Remember that just as in a 5K walk, when you begin to put one foot in front of the other, you will eventually get to where you want to be. And you may even arrive with a new perspective and a greater appreciation of the preciousness of your life.