Monday 5 July 2021

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer? BRiC's Collective Voice

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer?

When we are diagnosed we go through a trauma and our brains are emotionally overwhelmed. We asked our members what would have helped us at this emotional time when we are feeling vulnerable, tearful, and scared.

For some of us, we would have liked to know “you will get through this”, that the treatment is “doable” but that the treatment wasn’t something we could “sail through”. And that those who offer toxic positivity “Stay strong, you’ll beat this” may drive us crackers. Some definitely learnt the hard way, trying to be “super woman” and “push through” while caring for everyone else as they always did, and would now offer advice of “take it one day at a time” and, a recurring theme, “listen to your body”, alongside encouraging women to take all the help offered by friends and family. A few members said “knowledge is power” which related to us gleaning as much information as we could about our disease and its treatment. However we acknowledged that it was easy to be overwhelmed with too much information and that we can all handle it at slightly different rates. Some of us did feel we had not been given enough information at the start of our treatment plan, that knowing the long term side effects more thoroughly could well have affected our treatment choice. This also ties in with, as one member put it, “be firm with your medical team, you are the expert on YOU”. Ask for copies of your medical reports if you are like me and need to know everything” And take time to consider choices you are given about your treatment, take a 15 minute walk round the car park if you need to in order to help clear your mind. Also, celebrate the wins: “if you get out of bed and stagger outside for a walk on some days that’s bloody amazing”.

From an emotional level, we needed to be reminded to look after our stress levels, that “this too will pass” even if it takes a while to feel emotionally stronger. We should give our emotions the attention they deserve, that this is “your story”, that it was ok to not be super strong about this, that it was wise and even healthy to acknowledge our feelings. Some of us felt that some warning about the emotional rollercoaster that may happen afterwards would have been good, that we may push through emotionally to get through the treatment, but that we may crash down when it has finished, that even though our friends and family think it is all over when treatment has finished, it isn’t over for us. And that we may need to seek help at this point and acknowledge our struggle, and ask for support from a professional, many of us didn’t know this was available.

For self care, we needed to know how to administer some self care! That breast cancer is a disease, not a cold. Members suggested treating ourselves with kindness and compassion, and also seeking out support groups such as ours, (Building Resilience In Breast Cancer private group or BRiC) to find women who would just “get it” and could provide some answers. One member said groups like BRiC gave her hope as there are members here who talk about being 5, 10 or 15 years post diagnosis and that helps us see beyond the immediate danger we feel. One member offered some practical self care advice that she would have liked: “You will laugh again. Eat well. Rest. Treat yourself. Take time in nature. Put on your best clothes and makeup - it will make you feel good” Another member said: “It’s ok to feel everything you feel, don’t bottle it up. This is crap, but if you stay open, your life will open up and change in ways that you would never have thought possible”.


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