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The ABCs of Breast Cancer

A helpful guide for the newly diagnosed.
Every day, it seems I’m hearing of someone else who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer. Often these are friends or friends of friends. Since I’m three years post-diagnosis, it isn’t surprising when I receive an email or text asking for answers to some of the same questions I had when I was new to cancer. Those questions prompted me to come up with a quick and easy beginner’s guide to breast cancer. I’m calling it “the ABCs of breast cancer.” While it doesn’t cover every topic related to breast cancer, it gives a good overview. I’d also like to add a disclaimer here: I am not a medical professional. Please check with your doctor on implementing any advice you read here.
A is for Anxiety, Answers and Anger – Upon an initial diagnosis of cancer, the first feeling usually felt is that of anxiety. An overwhelming sense of fear usually sneaks in right behind anxiety. After the initial shock has worn off slightly, the newly diagnosed person needs answers to a myriad of questions. Every question, no matter how large or small is important. It is a patient’s right to ask these questions without fear of embarrassment. Oftentimes, the doctors don’t have time to do this, but nurse navigators or other staff can step in to fill the void, helping the patient understand and feel at ease. Anger often follows as the person comes to terms with a diagnosis. These feelings are real and should be acknowledged.
B is for Bewilderment, Breast and Bravery – Being told you have cancer is overwhelming and a shock to the system. Feeling bewildered, like a deer in headlights, isn’t only normal, it’s to be expected. You’ve just received news that will impact your life forever. Who wouldn’t be bewildered at that?
B is also for breast. A breast cancer diagnosis focuses all kinds of attention to your breasts. If you’re modest, be ready to throw that out the window. More people will see, handle and touch your breasts over the next few weeks than you ever imagined.
B is also for bravery. Bravery is defined as the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty. A synonym for bravery is courage. The newly diagnosed will find an overwhelming need for bravery to face the unknown.
C is for Crying, Cancer and Counseling – The word “cancer” strikes fear into the heart of many. The emotions it dredges up are often preceded by tears. As a person does her best to understand how and why she got cancer, crying becomes a wonderful emotional release. It’s been scientifically proven that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones. The tears will come, but they are beneficial in helping get past the initial shock of diagnosis.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
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