The physical damage of breast cancer is visible. But it’s the invisible emotional damage that often has a lasting effect. Learn how to regain your confidence.
Breast cancer not only does a number on your body, but it also wreaks havoc on your emotions. In fact, a recent study found that 82.5 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer experienced symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some time between diagnosis and the start of treatment.
But there is hope: The same study also found that PTSD symptoms subsided over time. If you are on an emotional rollercoaster after your diagnosis, here are some tips to help you regain your confidence.
Understand that your feelings are normal.
Think back to other times in your life when you have undergone a major life change. Pre-menstrual syndrome or post-partum blues seemed like conditions that happened to other people – until you went through them yourself.
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The same goes with your reactions to breast cancer. Simply acknowledging your feelings of fear and helplessness is the first step toward recovery.
Have a sit-down with your doctor.
Before treatment, choosing a doctor with whom you have a rapport is the most important decision you can make. That’s because after treatment, you will want to continue to have conversations about your recovery.
A benefit of having treatment at a comprehensive cancer center such as USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is that upon your diagnosis, you immediately will be surrounded by a multidisciplinary care team of oncologists, nurses, radiologists and psychologists who work together to guide you through to recovery. You have a right to discuss your health, emotions and post-care in detail, and taking control will build your confidence to move forward.
Surround yourself with support.
Support groups can be lifelines during stressful times. Cancer support groups will give you the chance to hear how women further along in their recovery process coped with the after-effects of breast cancer.
Informal support groups composed of friends, neighbors and family are there for your day-to-day recovery. Remember that not everyone will have the same supporting role. Some might be more comfortable in bringing meals or running errands for you. A select few might be the ones in whom you confide your fears and concerns. Don’t hesitate to accept their help.
Fight the urge to sit. Exercise, no matter how limited, helps your body heal, reduces inflammation and flushes your brain with feel-good hormones that fight depression. Even if you don’t feel like running the five miles that you did before getting sick, easing back into an exercise routine will help you feel like your old self.
Keep up your routines.
Pick up your life where you left off. Don’t jump back into everything, but do try to ease into the things that matter most to you.
Keep your weekly coffee date. Check your email. Attend church or book groups. As your confidence returns, you will find it easier to return to more complicated tasks.
Cut yourself some slack.
**** it! You’ve been through a hard time.
Pamper yourself by scheduling “me time.” Get a mani/pedi. Take a nap. Spend the afternoon reading a book. Go shopping.
Whatever makes you happy, do more of it. Finding time to laugh and relax will make you feel more like your old self – and renewed confidence will follow.
By Heidi Tyline King
As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC is one of the preeminent academic medical institutions in the country. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting cancer.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.