I’ve just been diagnosed…now what?
Fort Wayne, Indiana (May 30, 2007) —You have just heard the words that you hoped would never be said: “You have breast cancer.” Now what should you do?
Buy a journal.
The very best advice I was given was, “Direct all of your questions to your doctors.” That being said, you will be so overwhelmed as your doctor explains things that you might want to purchase a small notebook or journal immediately. This will be quite helpful for jotting down questions you will have for the doctor between visits and treatments, and it will also help you record his or her answers. Memory loss is one of the first side effects of chemotherapy, so this little book will be a handy thing to have around. Ask your doctor everything you can think of, then write it all down.
If you are told that you have to be treated with chemotherapy, odds are you will lose your hair. If you find a wig you like (you would be surprised at how many are available online – and for great prices, too!), you can take it to your stylist to have your current style reflected in your wig choice. (This can make the transition much easier if you can’t find one that looks exactly like your regular hair.)
Also, take a look around the house. If your bedroom isn’t close to the bathroom, could you possibly sleep in one that is closer? If so, make it comfortable before your treatments, and that will help you later when you don’t feel as well.
No kidding. Even if you are someone who typically would never dream of doing such a thing, now is the time to accept those favors when offered. You will get calls from people who ask exactly what they can do, so have a list ready. You won’t feel like cleaning the refrigerator or scrubbing the stove, but your friends would love to! This will give them a sense of accomplishment…and who can’t use a clean stove?! My friends made my family frozen meals – MONTHS worth. If you have a family, this will make it much easier on them as well. They’ll have good, healthy meals even when you are not able to prepare them as usual. One of my friends made “surprise meals” that the kids loved. She would label them with names like “liver and mushroom stew” but, really, it was just great lasagna. Miss Debbie’s meals were always the ones they liked the best, and they provided much-needed humor, too.
Help your family.
If you have children, a husband, siblings or parents who might not be able to be right by your side during this time, take just a moment and record yourself for them. This can be easily accomplished with a standard computer and CD. I recorded myself singing bedtime songs to my little ones, so that – even on the nights I was away from them – it was as if I were still there, sitting at the foot of their beds. Record yourself reading their favorite books, too. And perhaps a recording of a favorite poem would be nice for your husband, too.
Give yourself one big goal.
There has to be something that you have always wanted to accomplish. Remind yourself of this…DAILY. If it is that big trip to the beaches of Australia, find a great photo and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Then tell yourself how wonderful it will be when you are on that beach. Throughout my cancer treatments, I was pregnant with my son Noah. I kept Noah’s ultrasound image in my purse and reminded myself every moment of how much I would love to be able to hear his voice someday. And I did!