While a breast cancer diagnosis is enough to drive anyone into a fit of worry and concern, Tina German RN, CBPN-IC, a certified breast patient navigator at TriHealth, reminds women they are not alone – or helpless.
“It’s not a curse. Many cancers are diagnosed in such early stages that we can actually cure you. This is not a death sentence,” she says.
Tip #1: Be in Information-Gathering Mode
Tina strongly encourages her patients to be advocates for their health, through asking questions at each doctor appointment and actively seeking information from reliable websites. “Be in information-gathering mode, so you don’t have to look back saying ‘I wish I would have, could have or should have,’” she explains.
Tip #2: Make Educated Decisions
“Everybody’s first thought is to cut it out and get rid of it,” Tina says. She reminds her patients to do all the research they can on their specific type of breast cancer and to fully digest it, in collaboration with their doctor, before making a decision on what treatment option they would like to pursue.
“I hate to tell people you could do two operations, because it’s hard, but if you have any doubts at all, go with the least invasive and see what the final results are,” she points out. “You can always take more off, but you can never put it back.”
Tip #3: Accept Help
When friends, family or colleagues offer to cook meals for your family, run errands or perform household chores, it’s okay to accept help. “Don’t be embarrassed to have people help you out. It’s life. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t want to help,” Tina says.
Tip #4: Talk Openly with Loved Ones
Tina says not to shield your children, family or friends from your diagnosis. “There are some people who say, ‘I don’t want to tell my family.’ That’s okay for now, but you can’t keep it a secret forever.”
If your children are younger, Tina says you don’t need to go into deep detail, and to let their questions guide your discussion. You will probably notice that teenagers will not want to discuss the cancer diagnosis; however, you do need to be open with them.