Everyone you see looks just like anyone else, bar the clothes, gender, facial features, colour and size!! For your information, the 4 ladies seated in the front row in the second photograph are from the Breast Cancer Welfare Association and the President, Josephine Ning is at the far right.
However, the journey to survival is not an easy one and we should not try to make everyone think it’s going to be easy. It will be easier for some while more difficult for others. Many factors come into play.
You may think you do not see how you could play any role at all in the recovery of a breast cancer patient. After all, you don’t know anyone with breast cancer or do you? You may be surprised to find that some of the people you come into contact with, may be a survivor or have just gone through and won the fight against breast cancer. Listed below are points, not in order of some principles we could remember when dealing with and relating to someone who has had, or just been diagnosed or undergoing treatment for breast cancer. You never know when the opportunity will arise and where you can help. It may apply even if your friend/relative/colleague has a cancer other than breast cancer!
Point No.1 – Congratulate the Breast Cancer Survivor
When faced with someone whom you just found out has had breast cancer – don’t put on a sad face or look shocked or tongue-tied. Instead congratulate them! Most times, we are so uneasy because we do not know what to say….imagine, breast cancer! This was Point No. 1 I learnt. For someone to have emerged from diagnosis to treatment and recovery it is indeed a journey fraught with ups and downs. They have emerged stronger for it, have a “new” identity and face each new day with joy. They are happy and thankful to be alive and each new day is another extra day for them. Quite a far cry for some of us able bodied people who “dread” the start of another working day!
Point No.2 – Diagnosis is just the beginning of the “Journey” for the breast cancer patient
The diagnosis is just the beginning for a breast cancer patient. Support from all quarters including an understanding and trained medical team is essential in helping the patient make the right decisions and survive the journey ahead.
Point No.3 – Avoid negative stories especially those about breast cancer
What do we say or do when we visit a patient (friend) going through breast cancer treatment (eg just after surgery or chemotherapy)? We could try to avoid talking about the negative stories we have heard about breast cancer. If we have nothing better to say, sometimes, it’s all right just to be there for the patient. The last thing a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient wants to hear is how so and so died so rapidly after her surgery or chemotherapy or had her cancer recur within 6 months!
Point No.4 – Get a counselor for the patient (friend/relative/colleague)
The newly diagnosed breast cancer patient would be most encouraged to be able to meet and speak to someone who has gone through all the “pain” of breast cancer, treatment and recovery process. Seeing a breast cancer survivor is like the “light in the dark tunnel” for the newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. This is one of the primary reasons why the Breast Cancer Welfare Association was formed – to help those who are emotionally and psychologically devastated by their diagnosis.
You could help by getting in touch with the BCWA members if you have a friend/relative/colleague has been newly diagnosed with breast cancer and desperately needs someone to talk to. Someone who understands exactly what the patient is going through.
Point No.5 - Do not carry “old wives’ tales of food taboos” or advocate nebulous therapies!
Sometimes, we can be too helpful. In our need to be doing something useful, we will relate every possible anecdote about food taboos, food must-eats, traditional treatment, alternate therapies which we know very little about to our breast cancer friend.
What we are doing may confuse or pressure the patient or worse still, weaken her nutritional status to the point that she becomes unhealthy and easily succumb to any other ailments. In addition, it could interfere with her prescribed treatment by her medical team. It could also derail her resolve to undergo the prescribed treatment because the patient really thinks there is some other way to treat her cancer. Remember, the cancer patient’s emotional and psychological state is fragile and depending on the phase that they are going through, may easily succumb to any suggestion or perceived successful treatment.
As Ms Ranjit stated, you can really eat anything after you have gone through the whole series of chemotherapy. All the BCWA counselors will testify to this as well. During chemotherapy, dietician, Ms L. Magesway provides guidelines on diet in the article on Breast Cancer And the Nutrition Connection.
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