If you have a supportive family, close friends and/or a long-term marriage or relationship with a loving partner, this can ease the transition from patient to survivor and all the adjustments that go with it.
For those of us who get breast cancer later in life, survivor adjustments to things that impact on our personal quality of life may include lingering side effects from treatment, which fade with time, side effects from hormone therapy (if we are er-positive) such as hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, vaginal dryness and bone pain.
There is relief for hot flashes, mood swings, bone pain and vaginal dryness. A medical oncologist can help with these side effects. See a nutritionist about managing your weight. Being a survivor doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence.
If you work get back to work as soon as you feel up to it and have medical clearance to do so. The sooner life gets back to a familiar routine the better you will feel. Accept social invitations from people you are comfortable spending time with and who are not going to ask questions out of curiosity.
Don’t try to do it all…pamper yourself.
You and your spouse or partner need a breast cancer time out. A time to get away, just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just alone time. Sex and sexuality can be issues following breast cancer. You need time to talk though any feelings you both may have about intimacy and try to identify what you need from one another to enhance that part of your relationship.
Being a young survivor brings another whole set of survivor issues that can and often do impact on quality of life. In addition to sharing some of the issues that older women have, young women have issues about:
- Dating and relationships – when and how to speak about their breast cancer – the input of others going through the same situation is the best source of “how to” . Other young women can be found in support groups for young breast cancer survivors. Call your local chapter of the American Cancer Society for a referral to a local support group for young survivors.
- Young Children – helping them get over mommy’s cancer experience – seeing you well, doing things with you, extra cuddle time will go along way to reducing fear. There are books and information about this on breast cancer websites such as Susan Komen for the Cure, Y Me, and the American Cancer Society.
- Fertility- having a child after breast cancer-possibilities, risk of recurrence – recent studies show that having a baby doesn’t lower a woman’ s chance of survival. The time to discuss wanting a child is before you begin treatment for breast cancer. Speaking to a fertility specialist is important. You can also contact: www.fertilehope.org
- Isolation – feelings of being different than other young women, feelings of not having other young women to speak with who can understand – as a young survivor joining a support group for young survivors can help with feelings of isolation.