When you or someone you care about has or is facing the possibility of breast cancer, it is natural to feel many bewildering and frightening emotions.
No one wants to get sick at all. Certainly no one wants to get cancer. And there are kinds of cancers that seem particularly terrible, not only because of their death-dealing potential, but because they or their treatment hits us “where we live.” Breast cancer, for most women, is one of those diseases.
The possibility that you may have breast cancer is made even more stressful because it is an illness in which you are going to be called upon to make several decisions that don’t necessarily arise in other situations. It’s important that along with a carefully chosen team of physicians, you and the people in your personal support system take a very active role in the management of your case. Though that may feel a little intimidating right now, it can make a real difference in your welfare.
There are people who, when they are ill, take the attitude, “I’m going to find a good doctor and turn myself over to him. He knows better than I what should be done.” Only to a certain extent is that a reasonable attitude in any medical situation. But breast cancer, with its many treatment possibilities, offers a special challenge to the patient.
For most of us, a serious threat to our health immediately takes center stage. Other concerns seem less important than they were before we learned of our illness. Though we may not articulate the thought, we understand that if we don’t give first priority to taking care of the health crisis, there may not be any other concerns.
Even so, some women are so terrified of the thought of breast cancer that though they have found a lump or other abnormality in their breast, they suppress the knowledge, at least for a time. They may say to themselves, “That’s nothing. I’m just imagining it,” or “Next time I go to the doctor, I’ll mention it,” or “I’ve always had that. It’s not worth worrying about.”
Don’t do this. We have seen too many women who became victims of their own fright and denial. Their illness, which would almost certainly have responded to treatment in its early stages, had so advanced by the time they sought help that it was too late.
So, the answer to the question “What do I do now?” is, first, get some perspective on what you are facing. Second, find good allies, the right doctors, to help you.
These are the concerns that women seem to worry about most:
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