A breast cancer diagnosis is frightening and can leave you reeling.
You may be feeling scared, angry, shocked or numb. Perhaps all of these emotions are enveloping you at once, leaving you overwhelmed.
Whatever you're feeling, your first step is to give yourself permission to experience and express all of the emotions affecting you. There is no right or wrong way to feel after a cancer diagnosis, so take your emotions one day at a time and accept them as they come. Once you've had a few days to process your new reality, it's time to start moving forward.
Choose a Buddy
Select a close friend or family member and ask them to be your cancer buddy. This person will come with you to doctor's appointments and consultations whenever possible.
Your doctor and other members of your care team will be giving you a lot of information after confirming your diagnosis. They will explain to you what type of cancer you have, how advanced it is, and what treatment options are available.
You will be digesting large amounts of information, so it helps to have a second set of ears.
Your friend can take notes at your appointments to ensure you don't miss any important information and can work as a sounding board for discussing the pros and cons of your treatment options.
Find a Support Group
Friends and family are an excellent source of support when battling breast cancer. As helpful as they will be, however, many breast cancer patients find the support of others battling the disease more helpful.
A local support group is an excellent source of understanding and help, but online groups work just as well for some.
Remember that being part of a support group allows you to both give and receive help. Supporting others when you can gives you a chance to find a positive in your experience.
Get the Facts
Now that you have an appointment buddy and a support group, it's time to start gathering information.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor so you can ask questions and learn more details about your cancer and treatment choices.
Now is also the time to do some independent research if you like, but only if you feel comfortable doing so.
If you choose to do research above and beyond speaking to doctors, it is important that you remember to use only credible sources of information.
You must also determine how much and what type of information you're looking for. Some people want breast cancer statistics and facts while others prefer to gather details about what to expect and how they might feel during treatment.
While arming yourself with information is helpful, always remember that your doctor is the best source of information about your breast cancer prognostics.
Call Your Insurance Company
If you have health insurance, talk to your insurer as soon as possible about your diagnosis. Know which treatment options are covered under your plan and which ones are not. Ask which treatments need prior authorization and know the process for getting it.
Understanding how your insurance works helps you plan your treatment in a way that provides the best coverage and the least hassle.
If you don't have health insurance, don't panic. Programs are available to help offset the cost of cancer treatments. Your doctor may be able to direct you to help. If not, The American Cancer Society maintains a list of services by area. Help is available, and you should not hesitate to ask for it.
A breast cancer diagnosis is frightening, but you don't have to face it alone.
After your diagnosis, find a doctor you trust and grab a few friends who can travel with you along this journey.
Learn what options are available to help you and find out which of them are the best for you and your insurance plan.
Don't be afraid to ask questions and demand thoughtful answers. With a little time and the right care team, you will find the answers you need to battle your breast cancer in the best way possible.