As I’ve interacted with women who learn they have breast cancer, I’ve noticed two main responses.
Initially, of course, every person responds with shock. Then they go numb. I’ve experienced this myself twice! It’s like the room gets dark and silent and you’re all by yourself, mind racing, and the world has stopped. But once the frightening news begins to sink in, this is where there is such a difference in responses.
Some women go into a frenzy to rid themselves of this hated alien invader. Their only thought is, “Get this out of me now!!!!!” They take immediate action. Moving as quickly as they can, they rely on their family doctor for a referral for a surgeon and that surgeon’s referral for an oncologist and boom, they try to get the problem solved pronto. No questions asked.
There are obvious problems with this approach which have been mentioned in previous posts. Action is good, but uninformed haste may lead to regret. It usually does.
The other way of responding I’ve noticed is the exact opposite. It’s the denial and paralysis response to the shock of learning you have cancer. It’s the “if I pretend this isn’t happening, then it really isn’t” approach. While there is usually no need to rush, it’s vital to stay engaged. You can’t pretend the problem away. I know it’s hard, but try to separate your overwhelming fear of the unknown from the action points that need to be taken. Yes it’s nearly impossible, but it can be done.
The first action point for both the action oriented person and the fear-paralyzed person is to stop everything! Stop your racing thoughts. Don’t take any action until you’ve done at least two things.
First, call someone you trust. Share your shock and sorrow. The comfort of unburdening with a friend really helps. Knowing you’re not alone is vitally important.
Second, get online to the Komen Foundation and see all the kinds of support they offer. You can find information to answer your questions, find a number to call to talk with someone, and you can find out about doctors in your area. Click on the pink box that says “I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer” and find information to help you.
Here in Omaha, you can get online to the Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program and at the bottom of the page click on the pink box to request a navigator to help you. The site is very helpful. It’s worth exploring.
Before you choose a doctor or a plan of action, get information. If you just can’t make yourself, have your friend call and talk with one of us. We aren’t going to tell you what doctor to choose, but will help you know how to choose a good doctor. We will help explain terminology that may be difficult to understand. We can even go with you to your doctor’s appointment to help you understand what was discussed.
Just learning you have cancer can be absolutely overwhelming and exhausting both physically and emotionally, then add the doctors appointments and decisions to be made and it can seem impossible. That’s why it’s important to have a good friend and a navigator to help you.
Remember, the right information plus the right doctor means you’ll get the best outcome possible for your particular situation. The main thing is to stay engaged. It is your health; it is your life, and you’re worth it!