Welcome to our "Snuggle Sunday" Q & A series, where our blog authors respond to frequently asked questions and offer advice.
Editor’s Note: To date, we have not centered any articles around comments or letters received from our customers/subscribers. We receive a lot of feedback on Sundays compared to the rest of the week and we felt compelled to respond to this particular letter sent to us via snail mail.
We are keeping her name and address anonymous for privacy concerns.
Dear Le Snuggle,
I am so overwhelmed. I am recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I am upset and stressed to the level that I am not functioning well. I am reluctant to make any decisions.
I read all of your articles, and I am exploring all of my options and doing my homework by reaching out to coworkers and friends and family. I also have a second opinion scheduled at the request of my gynecologist. All of this is prior to making my final decision on an oncologist and a treatment plan.
What if I make the wrong decision? I realize time is of the essence, but there are so many considerations.
I am still working, and I am most stressed about the my job and whether or not the treatment plan I choose will allow me to keep working? I know that I am not the only person going through this and it makes me feel better somehow, but I am not coping well at all. Any suggestions?
- 2018, Anonymous
We are so very sorry that you have to deal with cancer at all. Survival rates for breast cancer are on a consistent rise.
As soon as you make your choice of oncologist and the specific facility you will be using for your treatment, they will be recommending screening for distress early in the course of your care, as well as throughout the treatment phase. Your feelings are totally expected and quite normal with a cancer diagnosis.
According to the National Cancer Institute,
"People who have cancer may find the physical, emotional, and social effects of the disease to be stressful. Those who attempt to manage their stress with risky behaviors such as smoking or drinking alcohol or who become more sedentary may have a poorer quality of life after cancer treatment. In contrast, people who are able to use effective coping strategies to deal with stress, such as relaxation and stress management techniques, have been shown to have lower levels of depression, anxiety, and symptoms related to the cancer and its treatment. However, there is no evidence that successful management of psychological stress improves cancer survival."
Learning some coping mechanisms now will help you with the stress and feelings of helplessness that you are experiencing:
Relaxation techniques, meditation or stress management in a group environment may assist you as well.
Counseling through a clinical health psychologist, chaplain or priest, social worker or psychiatrist may be potential solutions to your apprehension.
If necessary, these professionals can prescribe medications for depression or anxiety.
Exercise during cancer treatment is known to be a great stress reliever. A sedentary lifestyle can work against you in terms of your recovery rate.
By maintaining a healthy lifestyle during and after treatment, you can combat your feeling of being overwhelmed, as well as assist you in maintaining a healthy and positive attitude for the journey you are starting.
As far as working while having treatment, the facility and treatment plan you choose will work with you to tailor a plan for treatment according to the guidelines of the specific procedures to be performed, coupled with your personal diagnosis and severity of your cancer, as well as your family support system and lifestyle.
The more details you can give your employer will assist them in working with you during treatment. The sooner you communicate with them about your condition, the more support you can expect.
We wish you success with your treatment. We hope that you will find the guidance you are seeking, and the peace of living with your decisions as being the right ones for you and your family. Best of luck to you.
Keep reading our blog for our last installment for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In our final installment, we are going to talk about survival rates and give you some unusual facts about cancer.