Many times this journey starts before you receive your cancer diagnosis. You are scheduled for some type of diagnostic procedure, a mammogram, breast ultrasound, MRI, a biopsy – fine needle aspiration, core needle, stereotactic core needle biopsy.
You are starting to learn the language of cancer. Just like high school French class, you will have to do your homework. Knowledge is power – it can help quiet some of your fear. The internet is a powerful tool, but there is a lot of misinformation out there. Cancer.org is a good place to start. The American Cancer Society is the most trusted source for cancer information. Don’t overwhelm yourself. At cancer.org you can get the information you need to find out about a particular screening or test, or a list of questions to ask your doctor. Get only the information you need – after all, if you are having a stereotactic core needle biopsy, you haven’t been diagnosed with cancer so you don’t need to learn about staging, surgery , chemotherapy or radiation, which can be daunting to read.
For many their journey will end here. They will get good news. There will be no need to move on to Cancer II. They will go through life happy that they can recognize a few words but never have the need to speak fluent cancer. For others, the statistics say 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and they will need to continue their studies.
A cancer diagnosis can feel like you have been dropped into a foreign country. How did you get here? One minute the doctor was saying you have breast cancer, and they next minute the words coming out of the doctor’s mouth are starting to sound like pig Latin. Is he still speaking English?
My first suggestion is continue to breathe. It is the language of cancer, you will learn it, and you will find a way to navigate this journey. Journeys are taken on step at a time.
Like any journey, you have to prepare. It will not be fun like reading tour books and buying maps for your trip to Italy, but decisions have to be made nonetheless. You will need to choose doctors, health care facilities and type of treatments. You didn’t choose to have cancer, but you will get to make some decisions. Making the decision that is right for you will help you take back some of the control.
Some advice for your journey – don’t be afraid to ask for directions, take along a friend, stop and rest when you need to, be kind to yourself, keep looking in the direction you want to go.
Take advantage of the resources of The American Cancer Society. Programs are available in every community, free of charge, to help you and your family navigate through this challenge. Programs include services like rides to doctor’s appointments and treatments, free wigs, one-on-one support and lodging at a Hope Lodge or information to help family members as you travel this foreign path.
If you have to travel on this difficult path of cancer, perhaps you can find help and support, to ease the passage to a day when cancer is in the rearview mirror.