Different parts of your life may be affected by breast cancer, in some cases drastically.
After a breast cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy or hormone therapy and the side effects, you may need to navigate a new course of action for your everyday life and lifestyle. Some things will definitely be different. For real!
This will be a real adjustment as you juggle your breast cancer treatments with other people in your life. Family and friends can support you in your recovery. Let them know what type of support you need and how you are feeling as you navigate your journey. It is OK to say no if you are not feeling well enough for visitors. Find your comfort level as you move forward, but do not feel pressured to stepping back into your family “caretaker” routine. If you are not feeling confident, healed, are feeling tired or uncomfortable, do not engage in any role, relationship or activity until you are ready and able. It may take a while so everyone must be patient and keep communication open for best results of a new “normal” life with breast cancer.
Your Body Image, Self- Image and Sexuality:
- Go to a professional bra fitter for the fight size bra and prosthesis as needed.
- Consider breast reconstruction through your insurance provider.
- Get a mini-makeover as you hair and skin change.
- Buy some cute wigs and have fun with a new hairstyle.
- Sign up for the “Look Good, Feel Better” classes by the American Cancer Society, (1-800-227-2345).
- Chemotherapy can cause early menopause and you can experience uncomfortable hot flashes and excessive sweating. It helps to drink a lot of water to maintain hydration.
- Breasts are part of your body; your life is not dependent upon them.
- Do not put your life on hold; you have too much to do on this journey.
- Take your time to heal emotionally as your feeling will fluctuate with different situations.
- People may be unsure how to appropriately respond to your diagnosis, as you respond to the changes and feeling you are experiencing. Seek help from a psychologist or mental health professional as you encounter positive and negative situations.
Supporting Your Children:
- Children need coping resources to understand what is happening to their parent and how their routine will change. Find a support group for them to attend with other children because they are afraid and may be angry their life has changed as your life changes. Read books such as “Mommy Has Cancer” to help them adjust to your diagnosis and treatments.
- Laugh and play with the children in your life; enjoy their caring playfulness as it helps to reduce sadness and tension.
- Be careful about lifting children if you have not recovered from surgery or radiation treatments. The muscles and skin must heal properly before any strenuous activities.
Health and Wellness:
- Eat healthy foods that feel good and taste good. Do not lose a lot of weight during chemotherapy. Work with a nutritionist to maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise and healthy eating helps build your immune system.
Relationships, Dating or Starting a New Relationship, Sexuality
- If your feelings about your body and having sex change during your cancer treatment, it does not mean that it will last forever. If you are able to talk to your partner, spouse, doctor or nurses about your worries it can ease them. They may be able to suggest ways to help improve any problems you are having.
- Do not rush or feel obligated to perform sexually. Give yourself a couple of months to adjust to the emotional and physical changes in your body and treatments that cause:
- anxiety or tension
- bowel problems such as diarrhea
- bladder problems
- breathing problems
- changes in your sex hormones
- dry skin, vaginal dryness
- mouth problems
- nausea or vomiting
- sadness or depression
- skin changes or scarring
- tiredness (fatigue)
Wait until you have “that caring and loving feeling” before acting too soon.
If you are single, you may have concerns about starting a new relationship, dealing with surgical changes to your breast(s), infertility, and treatment after effects or coping with rejection. You can share your cancer history when you are ready to have those conversations. Take your time, screen people and their attitudes about cancer as you build your trust with new people you meet before bringing them into your life.
If you have a partner, you can focus on showing your feelings for one another in other ways by:
- enjoying being close to each other
- touching and stroking
- holding hands
Your Fertility and Future Pregnancies
- Sometime chemotherapy will affect your fertility and ability to have children. Discuss these concerns with your doctors in order to create a plan for future pregnancies or if you are having fears about getting pregnant. Many women have had healthy childbirth after chemotherapy and radiation treatments.