10 Ways to Cope with Breast Cancer

A diagnosis of breast cancer is often demoralizing, and treatment can be tough on the body, mind, and spirit. But you can and should find ways to cope with your diagnosis and treatment, like these women below who helped themselves to heal -- sometimes in unexpected ways.
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Writing & Talking About Your Diagnosis

A diagnosis of breast cancer comes as a devastating blow to the women who hear those two words. Many of the women, in the prime of life, find themselves feeling blindsided by the disease -- betrayed by their own bodies.

Some women, like Chrissy Hooper, 25 at the age of diagnosis, find themselves unable to sleep after hearing the news, instead poring over any breast cancer literature they can get their hands on.

Eventually, the diagnosis begins to sink in and they undergo treatment for the cancer, but that's not all. They must find a way to cope and heal after hearing such life-altering news.

Just like each disease is different, each woman's way of dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer remains unique and personal. Here are their stories.

Online Journaling

Before her diagnosis of Stage II invasive lobular carcinoma, Stacey Hooper of Vancouver, British Columbia, had only considered writing a weblog, a type of online journal. Upon hearing news of her diagnosis in February 2005, the former special effects costumer for the film industry started her blog, Von Krankipantzen.

A single, 35-year-old woman, Hooper wanted a way to keep in touch with friends and family and let them know about her treatment. She credits her cancer as a means of opening herself up through her writing and expressing her new life after a cancer diagnosis.

"I think I opened up about myself and got more personal much quicker than I probably otherwise would," says Hooper, now 37. "I mean, I have to talk about my boobs so some boundaries were dropped immediately."

After five and a half weeks of radiation, nine sessions of chemotherapy, and a double mastectomy, Hooper spent a great deal of her time housebound, feeling weak and anxious. Many of her friends did not call or visit after learning of her diagnosis, though several members of the blogging community, some having cancer themselves, would go out of their way to send notes and care packages.

"People were really wonderful," says Hooper, now in remission. "When you have cancer, some days you feel like you are the only person going through it, but blogging helped me get over those feelings of isolation."

She credits her online friends with cancer as helping her though the process, including breast reconstruction.

"We commiserate about these things and how emotionally, and in many ways physically, breast cancer still lingers on. Everybody's experience is different but the similarities bring us together."

 
Talking It Out

Since her diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 69, Marian Cromley has talked to 106 women who have walked in her shoes.

Cromley, who lives in Falls Church, Virginia, participates in Y-Me's Survivor Match Program, which pairs women who call Y-Me's hotline with a peer counselor who has the same diagnosis. The program trains peer counselors to provide both information and hope to their callers.

As a peer counselor, Cromley introduces herself as having the caller's same diagnosis nine years ago and that she's "cancer free, alive and kicking."

Unfortunately for her, Cromley did not have anyone to talk to while undergoing treatment.

"You are desperate to talk to someone who has been through this, who can tell you what the next step is going to be," she says.

Before she became a peer counselor, Cromley had her own run-in with a survivor of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. According to Cromley, the woman seemed depressed, tired, and uninterested in talking. She knew there had to be a better way to find someone to talk to.

"Y-Me has given me a second act for my life," says the former reporter. "Talking to other women who are at the beginning keeps alive the memory. They want to know what is going to happen. We tell them what happened to us. Once, we were just as stunned and frightened as they are now."

She acknowledges, several years after her diagnosis, how helping other women has continued to help her.

"Very often, the match will tell me at the end of a call that is has been wonderful talking to me," she says. "That I have helped. That makes it all worth while. But I think the calls do just as much for me reminding me how fortunate I am."

 
Continued on page 2:  Staying Physically Active

 

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