Although I’d known since late October that I might have breast cancer, it wasn’t until early January that I received a definitive diagnosis.
Everyone said ‘waiting is the hardest part’ and they were right. Since I had more than two full months of waiting before being diagnosed and then another two weeks before surgery, it quickly became apparent that I needed a better way to manage stress. Everything else – from mammogram to ultrasound, to core needle biopsy and surgery – was easier than waiting and fearing the worst.
It’s worth noting, however, that in many cases, the wait time to diagnosis is far shorter – about 2 to 3 weeks, more or less. My extended wait time was due mainly to my changing insurance plans.
3 Ways to Combat Anxiety
1. Call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345)
Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal oncology nurse on hand 24/7 to help answer questions and ease concerns about your specific diagnosis or upcoming test? Heck yes! But seriously – who can afford that? Well, surprisingly, the answer is: we all can.
Assistance from trained professionals is exactly what you get when you call the American Cancer Society. I know it sounds impossible, but they’re doing it.
While many of the answers to questions about breast cancer can be found online, this often involves sifting through reams of unneeded answers as well. And when you’re driving (as I was) or simply strapped for time, it can be far more efficient to make a phone call.
These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked and had answered in great detail over the phone:
- What are the Stages of Breast Cancer?
- What is a BI-RADS score?
- What is HER2? And ER/PR?
- Where can I go if I don’t have insurance?
- What is my risk of lymphedema after a sentinel lymph node biopsy?
- Can you alert me to any clinical trials that I might be a good match for?
- Are there any local support groups near me?
If you have questions regarding alternative therapies or statistics on patients who refuse standard of care, you won’t find the answer talking with the American Cancer Society, but they are great for helping navigate through the basics.
A note on privacy – I eventually chose to share my personal information with the American Cancer Society so that my case could be easily referenced and I wouldn’t have to re-explain my diagnosis every time I call, but this isn’t necessary. Read more about the American Cancer Society’s commitment to privacy.
2. Reach Out to Others
Initially, I kept quiet about my upcoming tests and diagnosis because I didn’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily. However, once it became clear that a positive diagnosis was increasingly likely – especially after my ultrasound was classified as BI-RADs 5 – I decided to share what was happening with a small group of friends.
I also received a surprising amount of support from people I had just recently met and some went so far as to connect me with relatives nearby that might be able to help.
Whether it was a touching story that I read online or an inspiring phone call or text message from someone who experienced breast cancer and survived, each interaction left me feeling stronger and more capable of beating this disease.
For all of the support I’ve received from both old and new friends, I am eternally grateful.
3. Keep a Sense of Humor
Cancer is a serious topic and it shouldn’t be funny. Or should it? Laughter is known to decrease stress and it doesn’t cost a dime.
My personal belief is that if you can find even a shred of humor amidst all the awfulness of a breast cancer diagnosis, then you’re one step closer to recovery. Plus, if you’re able to laugh about what’s happening, it can also lighten the stress of everyone around you.
So go ahead – laugh a little.