October was a great month; we started seeing fall foliage, the temperature was mostly bearable, and it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We celebrated all those women [and men] who are courageous enough to fight the fight against breast cancer. You saw all your favorite sports teams strutting around in hot pink, your favorite brands and foods were covered in that pink ribbon we have become so familiar with, and every weekend there was a different walk or 5k to support our beloved women [and men] with breast cancer. The support is overwhelming. But most importantly, let’s remember not to confine our commitment to beating this disease to October!
Overwhelming is also a common word for those who have had breast cancer or who are fighting it now. You get that dreaded news from the doctor, your stomach drops, your heart starts beating extremely fast, and your mind is racing in a different direction every second: “Who is going to cook dinner when I’m gone?”, “I can fight this”, “Who is going to take care of grandma?”, What if I don’t survive?”
Most likely, you’re going to be getting information and advice from a million and one different people: friends, family, doctors, survivors… How do you categorize it all, how do you know what is good advice and what isn’t, how do you stay sane enough to fight this enormous battle you have ahead of you?
In addition, you may be at any of the seven stages depending on where you are in your life and your fight against breast cancer:
Stage 1: You are fighting a battle that can’t be fought without the help of doctors and medications. You may need chemotherapy and radiation in which case you’re going to have to rely on your friends and family members to drive you home and to take care of you afterwards.. You may be in a different default stage, feel your independence is important to you. However during certain periods in your treatment, you may have to resort back to Stage One for your mental as well as physical well being . This is a healthy Stage One hook. In this stage you might also have anger and feel like a victim.
Stage 2: You may be in denial. You stop taking the medications doctors have prescribed, you’re not going to do chemotherapy or other treatments, and you are not in touch with, or care, how it might affect your family and friends. In that “perfect Stage Two world”, you could do what you wanted (get treatment/not get treatment) and still survive, in essence not having a consequence for your actions.
Stage 3: It is expected of you to fight breast cancer, not just ignore it and let it run its course. Your family and friends need you to survive. It’s what you’re supposed to do, get chemotherapy, get hormone treatments, or get the surgery to remove a breast. All sounds quite scary, but it’s what you are supposed to do in this situation. On the other hand, you may be thinking that God is saying it is your time to go. In this situation, your Stage Three hook could even lead you to let the disease take its course, follow doctor’s orders, never do your own research on alternative treatment or get second opinions.
Stage 4: Your family wants you to fight, your boss needs you back in the office, and your friends would be disappointed in you if you gave up. You don’t want to disappoint anyone, you want them to love you and accept you. This is your motivation to fight—to be there for others.
Stage 5: It is your role to survive. You have to show your children you’re brave, fight because your husband or wife needs you, and who would bake your famous apple pie at the fall cook off next year? You have a good job; you get to go on good vacations with your family. You’re going to fight because you’re a mother/father, wife/husband, sister/brother, aunt/uncle… you wear too many hats not to fight. Moreover, you’re life is pretty good, why give up now?
Stage 6: You truly embrace your breast cancer. You have it; you’ve accepted it, now, you’re going to deal with it. Either you choose to fight or you let the disease take it’s course and do what it will to your body. If you fight, then this means you will be seeing doctors, you will have a support team that includes, friends, family, doctors, nurses… You have a genuine appreciation for what they are doing for you and you understand and accept it. On the other hand, you may research alternative treatments or be internally motivated to change your life style to help survival. Either way, you embrace every moment you have with your friends and family and take pleasure in relationships you may have taken for granted in the past. You value each moment in your life even more. You have a sense of peace about you that people are in awe of.
You carry that sense of peace if you choose not to fight as well. You have lived a tremendous life and did what you wanted to do. You wake up every morning with a certain pep in your step. Now you’ve accepted this disease that has been handed to you. You are going to enjoy the time you have with your family and friends; make every moment count. You would love to survive, but you have no regrets if you do not.
Stage 7: You have a story to tell and you’re going to tell it. Whether you are a survivor, still fighting, or; you are involved in the cause beyond yourself (i.e. once you finish treatment; help others, help raise money for research, or start a charity that goes on even if you are not here) you have a story to tell. You don’t tell your story only because it makes you look strong that you survived or loving because you were there for someone else. You tell the story because you know it’s empowering and it will help many others with their own breast cancer struggles.
I hope this can give you some perspective in helping you recognize, and then reach, your highest potential in dealing with your fight of breast cancer that has affected your life.
For more information about breast cancer, please visit http://www.nbcam.org/index.cfm