Earlier this year a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She became one of the statistics, one of the eight women who get breast cancer in their lifetime and the 1/2074 who are diagnosed under 40 years old. For me, this was my third friend under 40.
The disease is likely to be much more aggressive in young women and is often found at later stages, as detection in this age group is based on self-examination. Breast Cancer Awareness month is to remind us all to perform these checks and to give insight into what it’s like to be diagnosed, treated and live with Breast Cancer.
Having spoken to my friends this is what they wanted to share:
- There is no cure for Breast Cancer. Early stage breast cancer is treated with the aim to cure, but
- until many years have passed it can still reoccur. The fear of reoccurrence is one of the hardest things to cope with.
- Having a mastectomy doesn’t prevent Breast Cancer returning.
- Breast Cancer can spread to bones, brain, lungs and liver. Once it has spread, treatment shifts focus to extend and manage quality of life.
- We should not forget that men can also get Breast Cancer.
Some DOs if your friend is diagnosed with Breast Cancer:
- Help in any way you can. Treatment is physically and mentally exhausting. The subtly here is to act, not just offer to help. Many people find calling up to accept the offer difficult or too taxing to organise whilst in treatment. There are some great websites that allow friends to set up and manage practical help.
- Continue to treat them as you always have. Normality is a great help when poor health news hits. If you always went out to the movies once a month, keep inviting them to the movies. Friends often fear this is insensitive and people need space to cope, but it’s easier for people to decline the movies, than feel like all their friends have walked away by not contacting them. (The movies are also pretty doable for a lot of people during treatment)
- Remember that once active treatment is complete, many people feel the most mental stress, as they are not actually “doing” anything to treat the cancer. Here is a recent article on why they “just can’t get over it”
Some DO NOTs:
- Say “be positive, it will be okay”. Most people understand the power of good mental health and know they need a positive outlook in life, however they also need time to grieve and come to terms with the condition and the potential loss of their breasts. They need to be able to vent to their friends. This will in turn help them be positive.
- Tell them that “at least you get a tummy tuck / boob job for free”. Breast Cancer surgery is complex and more invasive than a “regular boob job”. Some surgeries can take up to 16 hours and many women need several operations.
- Underestimate the side effects of treatment. They go well beyond hair loss and the things you can see. Many women enter early menopause, struggle with GI issues and significant fatigue. Some of the side effects are lifelong.
I trust this post has been informative and that when you cook these pink recipes you take time to self-exam and consider the many people impacted by Breast Cancer, for whom, life will never be the same. Maybe you could even cook them for a girls night in fundraiser.