Finding Support During Chemotherapy

Finding support during chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatment can be the most challenging time of your life, but you aren’t alone: here are tips for finding support during chemotherapy.

There is nothing quite like hearing a cancer diagnosis. The threat of mortality, the lost possibilities, and a future filled with uncertainty are aspects that no one can ignore. Yet, we constantly see images of the stoic cancer patient in media. These characters that just sit there, somehow totally at peace with their diagnosis, are not something that you have to aspire to be. You are allowed to be scared. You are allowed to be angry. These are all normal emotions that you should feel. However, it is possible to let them consume you, which could harm your chances of reaching a full recovery.

The Complications of Chemo

Learning to recognize your negative emotions without letting them take over your life is hard enough. Chemotherapy adds an additional challenge. Depending on the type of chemotherapy and the dosage, personal experiences can vary. You might feel nauseated or fatigued. You could lose your hair or develop mouth sores. Many patients have vomiting and diarrhea. The more severe symptoms usually resolve in the first week or so after treatment, but you may still experience fatigue and some nausea 6-12 months after your treatment is complete.

These symptoms make it far more difficult to maintain your mental health, contributing to higher cases of depression in cancer patients. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. By learning to cope with chemotherapy, both mentally and physically, you can maintain a sense of control when you need it most. To get started, you’ll need to build a team of people around you. No one should ever have to fight cancer alone, so you’ll need people in your corner.

The Health Experts

Be open with the medical staff at Breast Health Institute Houston. Dr. Darlene Miltenburg is an top breast cancer surgeon in Houston and has years of experience working with cancer patients. If you are feeling overwhelmed, your doctor needs to know. From there, they can help you find the care you need, whether physical or mental.

The Support Group

One way to start finding support during chemotherapy is support groups. Support groups aren’t for everyone, but there are so many different versions now that you may find something that works for you. Support groups aren’t just for sharing how you feel. It’s an important space where you don’t have to feel alone, where your experiences are validated. It is also a space where other patients can share tips to make chemotherapy more palatable. Some women suggest carrying mints at all times. They help stimulate saliva production, preventing dry mouth, something your doctor might not always think to tell you because it’s so common sense to them at this point.

The Family

Whether your family was created by blood or by choice, having family around is the best way to cope with chemotherapy. You will want to prepare for at least a week of possible downtime after each treatment, more if you are older or have health complications. Ask family members to help you meal-prep ahead of time and make arrangements for someone to help you with transport when necessary. There is nothing wrong with leaning on your family during one of the most difficult parts of your life.

The Organizations

Did you know there are entire organizations dedicated to making life easier for cancer patients? The truth is that there are dozens. Cleaning for a Reason can help you have a professional clean your home while you undergo treatment. It may sound trivial at first, but it makes a huge difference, especially if you have children or pets in the home. Don’t be afraid to ask about local organizations at your support group and get the help you need.

Beyond Chemo

There are dozens of tips and tricks to making chemotherapy more bearable, but at the end of the day it is the network of professionals and friends you surround yourself with that will make the greatest difference. Finding support during chemotherapy is one of the best choices you can make.

What to Expect After a Mastectomy

Life after a mastectomy

Whether your mastectomy is preventative or a response to a positive cancer diagnosis, the honest truth is that this surgery is incredibly hard on most women. Those of us who have watched our mothers, aunts, sisters, etc. undergo a mastectomy already have some idea of how physically and emotionally draining this particular surgery can be. However, a second-hand experience is ultimately removed from the actual experience.

In preparation for your procedure, Dr. Darlene M. Miltenburg at Breast Health Institute Houston will have already spoken to you about post-surgical care. What she may not have spoken to you about yet is the mental and emotional toll that this procedure often takes on women, so let us take a few minutes to discuss your physical and your mental health post-mastectomy.

The Physical Toll

This topic receives a lot of coverage, mostly because many patients appear to initially assume that their surgeon is overly cautious. Erika Archer Lewis attacks this concept in no uncertain terms. Her article, “5 Tips from my Mastectomy Experience,” describes the recovery period as a rollercoaster. She notes that at about three weeks after surgery, she was feeling well and decided to ignore her surgeon’s warning to take a full six weeks off. Hours later, her back and shoulders went into spasm, completely incapacitating her. It’s a lesson that she urges all other women to learn from.

Whether or not you start to feel better, it is imperative that you listen to your surgeon’s specific instructions. These may vary depending on the type of mastectomy you are receiving or the amount of tissue being removed, but their expertise should be respected if you want to give your body the best chance at healing.

Yes, this will generally mean that you will need to call in every favor you’ve amassed. You will need to rely on your partner, your family, and your friends for everything from child care to cleaning to meal preparation, and there is nothing wrong with that. At this moment in your life, the only thing you should be focusing on is healing.

The Mental Toll

Unfortunately, focusing on healing can be difficult after having a mastectomy. So much has changed. You are suddenly utterly reliant on other people. Your body is unrecognizable. In a sense, you’re experiencing grief. Grief over a part of your body that you assumed would always be there.

Sure, from the outside, it is easy to say, “they’re just breasts,” but, in reality, your self-image has been partially erased. You can’t even hug someone without pain. My own mother cried for months every time one of her young children tried to lay their heads on her chest. There was no tissue, nothing to cushion the weight of her child against her ribs.

Experiencing grief is normal. You have to give yourself the space to process your loss before you move on. Fortunately, there are things you can do to give yourself a boost and maintain a sense of normalcy after your surgery.

Communication

First, if you’re in a romantic relationship, then you need to discuss boundaries with your partner post-surgery. Given that you will be healing for up to two months, it is easy to lose that easy, sexual intimacy you had before, especially if you’re feeling self-conscious. Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about how you’re feeling. Without open communication, you may both end up feeling unwanted, leading to a serious rift in your relationship.

Restock

Second, once your recovery period is over, go shopping. Live Better with Cancer has a great blog devoted to what you should wear during your recovery period. But afterwards, it is going to be essential to pick out a few items that you feel attractive in. Picking out delicate lingerie is a great start. Aim for items that will cover your scars and allow you to feel beautiful again. Silky camisoles usually do the trick. It sounds vain, but it is vital to rebuild your self-image after surgery.

Help is Available

Positive sexuality and self-image are important to a lot of people. Still, the ultimate goal after a mastectomy is to make sure that your relationships stay healthy and you don’t lose any feeling of self-worth. If you’re struggling to cope or are experiencing feelings of worthlessness, then please contact your surgeon. Their offices will be able to connect you with local support groups and therapists.

If you begin to experience suicide ideation, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Line. Although relatively few breast cancer patients commit suicide, they are 37% more likely to do so than the general population. Any symptoms of depression should be taken seriously, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Coping with Chemo: What to Expect and How to Handle it

Bald woman sitting on yoga mat happy

A breast cancer diagnosis is a life-changing experience. There’s no denying that simple fact. To do otherwise would ignore everything your body has meant to you. Imminent surgery is already a lot to handle. You will have to decide with your doctor how you want to approach it. You can maintain a level of control in regard to your decision of when or if to have reconstructive surgery; however, when it comes to chemotherapy, control can often seem out of reach. This can make coping with chemotherapy very difficult.

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What Should You Wear After a Mastectomy?

One half of pink bra for those wondering what to wear after a mastectomy

The prospect of a mastectomy is a daunting one. Whether you’re having breast reconstruction simultaneously or not, you’ve already devoted hours of your life to researching the surgical process and talking over your concerns with your breast cancer surgeon in Houston. You’ve made plans for childcare and have someone to drive you home from the hospital, but there is nothing that fully prepares a person for a mastectomy. How do you carry on life after a mastectomy?

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Feeling Beautiful with Breast Cancer

breast cancer surgeon in Houston

A diagnosis of breast cancer means many changes to the body you know and love. Working with your breast cancer surgeon in Houston through each stage of treatment and recovery, you must learn to adjust to new changes in your appearance. Many of these changes will be temporary; some will be permanent. During this time of upheaval, taking time to appreciate your beauty as it is not only comforting but can positively impact your health and well-being.

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You’ve Survived Breast Cancer, Now What?

life after breast cancer

Once the terror of looming breast cancer finally subsides, it can be difficult to decide what your next move should be. After all, you’ve survived breast cancer and that’s nothing to bat an eye at! All that said, to prevent recurrence and simply feel better, there are a few healthy lifestyle changes anyone can and should make.

For more information on living with breast cancer, breast cancer surgery, and seeing a breast cancer specialist in Houston, contact the Breast Institute Houston today.

Kick Bad Habits

The first step to living better after you’ve survived a brush with breast cancer is to escape any lingering bad habits. If you still smoke, it’s safe to say that it’s time to kick that habit to the curb. If your sweet tooth is out of control, then it’s time to bring that sugar addiction down to more manageable levels. For anyone who doesn’t currently have a fitness routine, perhaps it is time to invest in one you can truly stick to and enjoy. It goes without saying, but removing recreational drugs from your life goes without saying. It may be a good idea to limit your alcohol consumption as well.

Get Moving

Being overweight or obese greatly increases breast cancer mortality so maintaining a healthy weight is an important endeavor. One great factor to doing just that is to get your body moving. Whether you want to go hard at the gym and lift heavy weights or simply enjoy daily walking, every small effort will pay off. There are plenty of different ways to get exercise. From hiking and running to weight lifting, Zumba and other dance classes, yoga, spin class, pilates, boxing, and many more. Whatever you do, it’s important to be consistent.

It is recommended that breast cancer survivors get regular physical activity and aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. That’s only about 30 minutes for 5 days weekly. It’s 100% possible to do, even amidst the busiest schedules. Aside from the obvious benefits of physical fitness, you may also experience improved mood, energy, mood, bone health, body image, and decreased stress and anxiety.

Healthy Fuel

Fueling your body with healthy food is another essential piece of getting your life back and keeping breast cancer at bay. Whole foods such as lean protein, whole grains, fibrous fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water each day will keep you feeling and looking your best. Moreover, a healthy whole food diet is instrumental in fighting diseases of any kind; not just breast cancer.

Stress Management

Conquering breast cancer is stressful, to say the least. Once you’re passed the treatment stage, it is very important to manage stress and anxiety. Fueling your body with healthy whole foods and maintaining your body weight through regular physical activity are great ways to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Other ways to help manage these concerns include getting enough sleep, meditation, journaling, and therapy. It may also help you to talk to your friends and family about your struggles and ask for help whenever you feel the need. If you are currently seeking treatment for breast cancer, contact the compassionate experts at Breast Institute Houston.

Breast Cancer Specialist in Houston

Breast Health Institute Houston is unlike any other breast cancer treatment facility. Providing a concierge service to patients who are seeking diagnosis or treatment for breast cancer, our experts take time to get to know their patients and their unique concerns. With goals to both treat and put patients at ease, our team work tirelessly to ensure that you get the treatment you truly deserve. Not only do patients leave satisfied, but they often feel and look better than before. To contact the premier breast cancer specialist in Houston, contact us today.