For some women, a metastatic diagnosis is their first breast cancer diagnosis. Other women may find themselves back on the emotional roller coaster they thought they got off after previous treatment. Sometimes this means feeling angry, scared, stressed, outraged, or depressed. If the cancer is a recurrence, some women may question the treatments they had or may be mad at their doctors or themselves for not being able to beat the disease. Still other women may deal with the diagnosis in a matter-of-fact manner. There is no right or wrong way to come to terms with the diagnosis. You need to do and feel what is best for you and your situation.
Many people find that it helps to concentrate on understanding the new breast cancer diagnosis, learning all they can about different treatment options, and taking the time to get other medical opinions. Information can give you a feeling of control, which can help you manage any fear you may have.
Loss of control can be a huge issue for women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. The process of gathering information and learning about the disease and treatment can be very stabilizing and help women feel more in control.
A number of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer have said thinking about the future frightens them because they’re not sure what will happen. Some feel that living in the moment and living life to the fullest helps them deal with the fear and stress of an advanced cancer diagnosis. Having a goal or a hobby can be a welcome diversion — you can focus on something besides the cancer and live outside yourself for a little while. There are many things that can help maintain a feeling of being in the present moment. Examples include spending time with loved ones, making art, journaling, listening to music, or being with a pet. Achieving small, daily successes that build toward a larger goal also can offer comfort and stability.
Some women with metastatic breast cancer may feel the urge to withdraw from social connection. But in interviews and publications, many women living with metastatic breast cancer have said that distancing themselves from loved ones wasn’t very helpful in dealing with their diagnosis.
Cancer treatment isn’t just about what’s happening on a physical level — it’s also about your emotional well-being, and the best treatment plan addresses both. It’s important to find ways to relieve your stress and ease any fears you may have. Since everyone deals with stress in a different way, below are some tips that can improve your mood and make you feel more calm, relaxed, and hopeful:
- exercise or take a walk
- write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal
- meditate or pray
- do exercises to completely relax your muscles (progressive muscle relaxation)
- talk with a counselor about your stress
- join a support group
- do yoga or gentle stretching
- listen to soothing music
- express yourself through art
- have fun with friends — go to the movies, invite someone over for coffee, talk about a book you’ve both read, etc.
Because you and your doctor need to be in agreement about the approach to your care, it’s a good idea to regularly review your feelings and treatment goals with your medical team. You may want to alter your treatment plan depending on how you feel, your quality of life, family issues, and financial concerns. Always remember that your treatment plan isn’t written in stone. You can talk to your doctor about changing it at any time.
If you need some help managing these emotions, contact our Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected] for a referral for free mental health counseling for you and your family, caregivers, or loved ones, a connection to a metastatic support group, or match you with a Peer Mentor who has been exactly where you are and understands.