With assistance, coping with breast cancer is much simpler

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We’ve all heard of someone who has breast cancer and is fortunate enough to have a large group of supporters rallying around them, complete with pink clothing, fast food franchises, and charity fundraisers in their honor.

It’s wonderful to see, but what if you have breast cancer and don’t have access to such resources? When it’s just you, how do you go through the most difficult battle of your life?

Ann Burton, a 58-year-old breast cancer patient from Aurora, Colorado, said, «You really don’t receive the support you need until you meet individuals who have gone through almost the similar concerns and treatment as you are going through.»

Paula Schorle has Stage Three Triple Negative Breast Cancer and has had a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy and radiation. She claimed her spouse has been wonderfully supportive, but the 46-year-old admits she doesn’t have a large support system and feels isolated.

«I am from Ireland, and aside from my doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, I don’t know many people,» the Marshfield resident explained. «I work in the insurance industry, so I’m fairly busy all year,» she says. «I only took time off following my operation.»

Schorle needed someone to talk to since she was having trouble accepting the loss of her breasts. «I was walking down the freezer aisle at my local grocery store when I realized how much I miss my nipples peeping through a shirt when it gets cold,» she explained. «It irritates me because no one ever talks to you about that side of cancer.»

She met a fellow patient during her radiation treatments who told her about a Facebook forum for breast cancer survivors. She explained, «I tried an in-person support group, but it wasn’t for me.» Since then, Schorle has communicated with other breast cancer patients, and she now shares and posts in the group.

«Cancer is a lonely journey that no one should walk,» she remarked.

Luanne Riley took several months to come to terms with her breast cancer diagnosis, but she’s grateful for the support she’s received from her church, friends, and family. She recognizes that not every patient is as privileged as she is.

Riley, who lives in New Johnsonville, Tennessee, said, «I know most cancer facilities have a nurse navigator or social worker to help individuals connect to social resources that are available.»

Riley has also sought emotional and spiritual support from Facebook communities for breast cancer patients. «I also found the community and discussion boards on Breastcancer.org to be very helpful,» she added. «Making connections and building a network, even if you haven’t had one previously,» says the author.
Donna, who asked that her last name not be used, met with a social worker at her oncology clinic when she was diagnosed. «They formed a Young Survivors Support group,» she explained, «and I was a part of that for a year.» «There was also a program that our entire family could attend. After supper, the adults met with a social worker and a nurse, while the children met with a social worker and a nurse. For solace, I also read books by survivors, journaled, studied the Bible, and listened to music.»

Cat Gwynn was diagnosed with breast cancer, and while her family wasn’t there to support her, her friends were. She even published a picture memoir, «10-Mile Radius: Reframing Life on the Path Through Cancer» (Rare Bird Books, November 2017), on her own cancer experience. Reading about other people’s experiences can be reassuring.

Support can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places. Lisa Maskara, 52, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer last year. She took time off work to undergo months of chemotherapy, and she had a large support network; her family, friends, and community held fundraisers, cooked dinners, and assisted her in any way she needed. «I also used the internet to reunite with my local high school class of 1984,» she recalls.

Looking back, her best buddy was the one person she didn’t see during the early months of her battle. Maskara, a Yonkers, New York resident and mother of two grown children, says, «She was the one person I assumed would’ve been there for me since the beginning, but wasn’t.» «She just didn’t know what to do with it.» Maskara claims that after a few months, her best buddy has come around and has been by her side ever since.

Unfortunately, during my own breast cancer battle, I was shocked to discover that some of my so-called good friends and even close family members, whom I had expected to be by my side throughout the most difficult battle of my life, never showed up, despite the fact that one of them only lived 20 minutes away!

They never came to see me, never brought me food, never helped me with my grass, never even hugged me. As a result, I developed the ability to «expect the unexpected.» Instead, I received solace from my writing pals, who knitted me comforters and sent me a package full of surprises. They checked up on me every day, gave me humorous movies to cheer me up, and called me when things became bad. Without them, I would not have made it.

I also reconnected with a long-lost childhood buddy, who came to see me and sat with me during my chemo sessions. While some patients may be hesitant to notify others about their problems, it is critical that they do so. During the difficult times, you’ll require assistance and support.

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