Five Important Things for the Newly Diagnosed Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient
Receiving a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis can be one of the most life-changing and overwhelming experiences an individual will ever go through. This is especially true when an individual’s first diagnosis of breast cancer is metastatic breast cancer. When receiving this news, it’s understandable for life to turn upside-down and do not know what to do next. If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind as you move forward.
Allow yourself to feel
It’s understandable to feel scared, sad, confused, angry, or frustrated after receiving a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. There is no shame or weakness in experiencing these, and there are no right or wrong emotions to feel during this time. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel and experience them and to deal with them in a healthy way. Pushing these feelings aside and continuing to try to push forward can be unhealthy in the long run, and take a significant toll on mental and emotional health.
Allow yourself to encounter these emotions head-on, and to truly process them when they arise. However, it is important to remember that if you start to feel overwhelmed by your emotions, to the point where you are unable to go about your daily routine or participate in activities you enjoy, it may be a good idea to seek professional mental support. A counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or any other mental health provider may be able to help guide you toward healthy strategies for managing these understandable emotions.
Discover your new normal
No matter what, life is going to change in some form or another after your diagnosis, especially if metastatic breast cancer is your first breast cancer diagnosis. It may be that you need to adjust your daily routine to fit in additional healthcare appointments or to accommodate for treatment. You might need to, or decide to, stop working or participating in a hobby that you no longer think you’ll have the time or energy for. Whatever the case may be, life is going to shift and a new normal is going to need to be established.
It’s alright to try new things or start adjusting your schedule and responsibilities to accommodate for your new diagnosis. It’s also important to remember to put your needs first and do what makes you happy and feel good. If you’re not feeling up to an activity, or need to back away from some previous commitments to focus on yourself, it is completely acceptable. However, no matter what your new normal looks like, it’s important to keep living your life to the fullest and do what brings you joy and fulfillment.
It can be difficult, if not impossible at times, to navigate your journey with metastatic breast cancer on your own. Enlisting the support of trusted friends or family members may be key in facing your battle head-on. Although it may be difficult to talk to loved ones about the emotions and experiences your enduring, having them by your side throughout all that is going on can make a huge difference. Whether you ask for company or an extra set of ears at a healthcare appointment, or just need a friend to sit and vent to, your support circle is going to be critical. Also, support groups, both online or in-person, may be a great source of encouragement and help.
Find the right healthcare team
Your healthcare team is going to be involved in so many aspects of your life with metastatic breast cancer. From oncologists to mental health providers, and every specialist in between, you will be regularly encountering medical professionals. It’s okay to get a second opinion or to try out different providers to accompany you along your journey. Finding providers who take your needs, questions, and concerns seriously, and who you feel like you can contact when you need them, can help you feel the most supported and well taken care of during this time. Any provider that makes you feel as though your experiences, fears, and time isn’t valued is someone that won’t be a positive addition to your team.
Do your research (within reason)
The internet can be an overwhelming place, especially when it comes to searching for information on health conditions. It can be quite easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that’s out there. Not only that, but not all of the information you’ll find on the internet is accurate. Doing some light research on your condition, possible treatment options, side-effects, and other concerns or questions you might have may help bring you peace of mind or feel more prepared for your next healthcare appointment. It’s important to use reputable sources, with professionally reviewed information. Some potential places to start are with resources that are supported by large academic, nonprofit, or research organizations.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?