I was a girl scout so I know a little about being prepared- ha ha, plus I did my research as soon as I got my diagnosis. This is for anyone out there that may be dealing with a new diagnosis of breast cancer and may want to know how to be prepared.
1. Do your homework- Talk to friends who have been through it, see whatthey did and what they would have done different. Go to the internet and be educated www.whatnext.com is a great resource for asking questions of others that are going through the same thing.
2. Be ready for Dr's visits- have a tape recorder, because you will not remember what was said. Take a friend or family member (sometimes a friend is better because they aren't typically as emotional as a family member). Stand up for what you want- I WANTED a bilateral mastectomy, even though my dr told me she recommended a lumpectomy. I knew I would be paranoid about it coming back if I wasn't as agressive as I could be (ok, I am still paranoid, but I don't think I am as bad as I would be with just having the lumpectomy)
3. Be ready for after your surgery- I had a dbl mastectomy so to prepare:
a.I bought a recliner to sleep in, if I needed to. It was also a lifesaver during chemo!
b.I had pjs that buttoned up and had my mom sew pockets in them to hold the drains
c. I had a long bead necklace to safety pin the drains to while I showered
d. I had two round oblong pillows to put on either side of me when I slept, so I wouldn't roll over on my side.
e. I had everything placed within reach before my husband went to work. Like my coffee cup, bowls and a plate. I wasn't able to reach in the cabinet.
4. Share your story- this helps not because you are getting sympathy, but you will have prayer warriors and they will all be a means of support. You will feel like you have to be a shining example and be strong for your supporters. Being strong is half the battle!
5. Surround yourself with friends- continue to go out, be around people and keep a sense of humor. Laughing through this whole journey is the best medicine.
6. Make an adventure out of chemo- ok, so not everyone will be like me and my "chemo army" - we had army hats with a pink ribbon on it, we took food to the patients and nurses, we made posters for the wall (a Luke Bryan one, and it is my understanding it is still hanging in the infusion room), we met everyone in there just about and offered encouragement, We took our Gnome and photographed each treatment to keep track. We LOVED our nurses, we rocked out to a "mixed tape" of our chemo songs on the way, Pack a blanket, water bottle, candy if the taste bothers you, a special prayer to read, and a really fun friend to pass the time with you!
7. Prepare yourself for the after effects of chemo-
a. your hair- more than likely you will lose your hair, come to grips with it- embrace your inner warrior and don't be ashamed of losing your hair. I never wore a wig. The medically induced menopause made me hot, even wearing a hat I would have to shed it at the dinner table. I didn't think it would be appropriate to take off a wig and put it on the table! Plan a shaving party and take control of when, where, and how you will lose your hair.
b. chemo brain- you will have this- write things down, take your time speaking and explain to strangers why you can't think of the words you are trying to say.
c. Food- try to eat well. You will need protein and lots of nutrients. The ACS and your hospital will have support groups and classes you can take.
d. Looking Good- go to classes on how to keep your self esteem Look Good Feel Better http://lookgoodfeelbetter.org is a class through the ACS, it is a great one that teaches how to apply your makeup and take care of your skin. Chemoflage www.chemoflage.com is another class offered and it is really good too, you also will receive awesome swag bags when you go to the classes. Eye makeup is VERY important when you are bald!!
8. Your baskets of necessities-
a. claritin- no one tells you, but this helps with the bone pain associated with Taxol and the Nulesta
b. nausea meds- take them after chemo, BEFORE you get sick
c. pain meds- take them BEFORE you start to hurt
d. hand sanitizer
e. journal- keep track of symptoms to share with the dr at the next visit, or for your info on what helps when you get sick
g. hemoroid wipes- all the above medicine will cause hemoriods
h. stool softner- for the above reason
a. you will feel good again- after my last treatment, I actually feel better than i did before my diagnosis
b. your hair will come back- granted it may not be like it was before, but it's back
c. you are awesome for fighting this fight!
I hope these ideas help you, if you are having to go down this road. I would love to see other survivors share their ideas, too! Please comment below- and God bless you on this journey!!