About This Book

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School. The stories in this book from women with breast cancer and their family members, along with the up-to-date medical information provided, will give you inspiration, strength and hope. This book will educate and comfort you and will serve as a support group from diagnosis through treatment to rehabilitation and recovery.

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Five Tips for Navigating Your Breast Cancer Journey

Inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey

By Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School

First you cry. Then you hunker down and start planning the next year of your life. You know the statistics — you’re going to make it, but you still need to work the hardest you’ve ever worked and you’re going to have to endure a lot. In Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey, Dr. Julie Silver, herself a breast cancer survivor, relates her own inspiring story along with others to create a handbook for a healing journey. She combines great tips with real-life stories from other breast cancer patients and their loved ones.

1. Build a great healthcare team. Finding a team of doctors you trust takes time, and sometimes you should get a second opinion. Dr Silver writes, "I recommend, whenever possible, to consider getting second opinions, because they will do one of two things: 1) either confirm the first opinion and make you feel comfortable that you are getting the best possible care; or, 2) offer you another option that you may want to consider." On the other hand, if you find a doctor you trust right away, you may feel you want to stick with him or her. It depends on you and your feelings. Dr. Silver also recommends speaking to a nurse navigator at the beginning of your journey for immediate help getting "plugged in" to your hospital.

2. Build your support group. Surround yourself with positive people. Consider the advice from Georgia Shaffer, who had to learn to say "no" to people in order to weed out those who were taking away the energy she needed to fight cancer. On the other hand, you may find many once-strangers become angels in your life. Dr. Silver says, "Don’t be surprised if your mail carrier, grocery clerk, or child’s teacher, or someone else who you barely know, reaches out to you when you least expect it. You may find that the woman down the hall in your office becomes your new best friend after she hears of your illness and offers to help."

3. Think positive, although it may be easier said than done. Dr. Silver writes, "It’s not easy to always be optimistic during cancer treatment. So, rather than advising people to ‘think positive,’ which can tend to trivialize a very difficult experience and often ends up sounding like a cliché, what I recommend is to try and do things that have been shown by research to help support people emotionally during times of stress." The cancer journey is often full of news that is hard to hear, and survivors should try to feed their brain and body positive messages to balance out the negative. The mind-body connection is a strong one. Bonnie Compton Hanson sang silly songs to herself during treatment, and Connie K. Pombo bought herself 15 tubes of her favorite shade of lipstick, reminding herself that she had many years ahead to use up all those tubes.

4. Don’t forget to ask for rehab after your official treatment ends. Dr. Silver’s work specifically focuses on healing and rehab after cancer treatment. She writes, "In one study on breast cancer survivors, more than 90 percent of women needed cancer rehabilitation but fewer than 30 percent received this care. Bottom line: don’t leave out the ‘rehab’ in your cancer care. You need it, you deserve the best possible treatment, and your health insurance will cover it." Feeling better physically makes you feel better mentally, and vice versa. Dr. Silver found herself in need of such rehab treatment. "Not surprisingly, at the end of the cancer treatments, I was a shell of my former self," Dr. Silver says. She was so motivated by the need for this type of care that Dr. Silver even wrote a book on it, After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Better, Stronger.

5. Reflect. Dr. Silver says, "Every woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer chooses her own path regarding how to live the rest of her life. Inevitably, the diagnosis changes us, but often more so in the beginning than later on." Your life goes on and you become busier and busier just living. It may be important to reflect on your journey and how it has shaped you, though not excessively. Lillie Shockney didn’t realize how significant her journey with breast cancer was until she was diagnosed a second time. After conquering the disease again, she reflected on what it meant. Lillie felt God sent her a message to change her nursing career and work on the Breast Cancer team at Johns Hopkins. Now, when Lillie meets with newly diagnosed women at the doctor’s office, she helps give them hope. "I can see their fear begin to dissipate when they hear that 20 years ago I sat in the same exam room (or a nearby one) and am doing well now," she says.

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