From the moment a lump is discovered to the moment you hopefully find out that the cancer is gone, you will go through a myriad of emotions. You may be able to deal with it on the outside and just tread on through, but inside, you need to be prepared for the emotional battle ahead. Some breast cancers are more severe than others, but even the most minor cases have the word, “cancer” associated with them and can cause extreme anxiety. Many people think of it as only a physical disease, not realizing how challenging it is psychologically in so many ways.
You may wonder, “Why me?” You may be angry at the world and close yourself off to everyone in your life, preparing for the worst. On the other hand, you may be the type of person who seeks advice from anyone you can, surrounding yourself with a supportive group of people and a positive attitude. The way you deal with breast cancer is unique to you. However, even if you are smiling on the outside, you may be hurting on the inside. Some patients go through periods of depression. Even when surviving breast cancer, it is not uncommon to constantly worry about it returning. It is important to remember to take care of your mind and your body while undergoing treatment, as well as after treatment has ended.
Side Effects of Treatment
The very thing that is supposed to make you healthy can cause taxing side effects. Chemotherapy is a common treatment for breast cancer patients, killing cancer cells wherever they may be in the body. The drug causes hair loss, nausea, and a condition called, “chemo brain” which tends to last months after treatment has completed. With chemo brain, people tend to feel like they cannot remember things as well as they used to and that their thoughts are scattered. The effect is temporary, however.
Radiation and hormonal treatments also have side effects. Radiation affects the skin, leaving red marks like burns. Fatigue, depression, and loss of sex drive are also common for both types. You may feel like you are fighting a constant battle. If you are undergoing treatment for breast cancer, it is important to remember that it is only temporary, and although it is uncomfortable, it is helping you in the end.
If your doctor tells you that you are officially cancer-free, you should be jumping out of your seat. Unfortunately, there may be lasting damage from your breast cancer treatment that keeps you grounded. If your doctor recommends a mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts), you have to deal with the change in appearance and decide whether to have reconstructive surgery. This is an added cost, and the breast will never look the same as it did before cancer. This effect is something that needs to be prepared for.
Infertility is another side effect of breast cancer treatment that may last indefinitely, as some treatments lead to early menopause. For younger women, this is a difficult obstacle to overcome. They might have thought about having children their whole lives, and now are forced to reconsider their life plan. Although the damage is physical, the psychological effects can cause more harm.
In the United States, there are constant debates about health care costs. Even for healthy people, health insurance is a luxury that not all Americans can afford. Without health insurance, breast cancer patients are left with medical bills sometimes for the rest of their lives. Even with health insurance, not all costs will be covered. Studies have shown how financial burden, medical related or not, can affect people. Some people suffer from depression and feel as worthless as their wallets. This added stress is not something that a breast cancer patient should worry about on top of their other concerns.
No amount of debt is more important than a human life. Do not assign a monetary value to your life, even when the bills are staring you in the face every day. Take small steps in organizing your medical bills and set up a payment plan with the facilities involved. There are also laws about job protection. For those struggling, it is important to remember that there is help out there.
Loved Ones Affected
Many people fail to recognize the effect on the loved ones of a breast cancer patient. The closest people truly care and are concerned but do not always know how to show it. If you are a breast cancer patient, your friends and family may feel as helpless as you are feeling. Some do not know what to say or do, so instead of asking, they ignore it. Even when they do know the right things to say, they still cannot rid you of cancer.
When mothers cannot perform the tasks that they normally do, the rest of the family has to take care of themselves. Children sometimes are forced to grow up more quickly than normal but gain a sense of appreciation for their mothers. Spouses may find it difficult to not only be supportive and loving but also do twice the work. It is strongly advised that not just the cancer patient but also the rest of the family get involved in support groups, as there are groups catered specifically to friends and families of cancer patients.
The effects that breast cancer has on both the patient and their loved ones are numerous. Without a cure, we have to rely on treatment options that have negative side effects and medical bills. We also worry about the effect on those close to us. A strong support group can help you manage and prepare for the effects of breast cancer, whether you are the patient or someone close to the patient.