Advice from 3 breast cancer survivors

Women hope to minimize the fear, isolation of cancer


ORLANDO, Fla. – The fear, the dread, the panic, all of the emotions that follow a diagnosis of breast cancer can overwhelm the toughest of women.

"I was fine," said Lisa Crites.

"I thought, ‘This is it, I'm probably going to die now,'" explained Sherry Palmer.

"I'll be okay.  I was like as long as it's me and not my mom and dad," said Jennifer Batchellor.

It's not just the emotions; there are the doctors' appointments, the treatment options, and the side-effect, all of which can be a lot to digest.

However, "The physicians are so busy keeping you alive; they miss the pragmatic pieces of advice," Lisa said.

So, in order to get the pragmatic advice they needed, breast cancer survivors Lisa, Sherry and Jennifer joined a support group called Breast Friends.

Their first piece of advice, "I did a lot of physical therapy where you literally walk your hands up and down the wall," Lisa said.

For Lisa, doing that for a couple weeks built up her strength. Sherry Palmer says surgeons will tell you to sleep in the recliner after surgery.

"You sleep in the recliner. When you're sick, you want to be in your own bed," Sherry explained.

So instead, use a wedge pillow.

"It helps with healing. It helps with swelling. It helps with drainage," Sherry said.

Jennifer says that she learned to go out and enjoy the few good days she did have.

"Really take the time to get up, leave the house, go to the mall with your mom, or see a movie with a friend," Jennifer said.

However, most important thing these ladies say to remember, "people, patients, have got to be psychologically accepting of the choices they make," Lisa said.

Although cancer patients have long benefited from support groups, they may still have trouble talking about their experiences. Online intervention tools may be a different option.

In a study from the University of California at Los Angeles, researchers found that women with breast cancer who created websites as a way to cope the disease, reported feeling less depressed, more positive, and having a greater appreciation for life.

Additional Information:

SUPPORT: With all of the stress and anxiety that breast cancer patients undergo, it is vital that they receive support not only from family and friends, but from outside resources as well. Support groups offer relief to those who are starting to feel the effects from depression and they bring hope to patients. A support group's focus may vary from informational to emotional, but they have the same goal: to lend a hand and make women and men feel comfortable about their current situation. There are 24/7 hotlines and even online support groups where men and women can log into their account and chat with survivors, doctors, and other patients. (Source: Komen.org)

BREAST FRIENDS:  Breast Friends is one support group that helps women with breast cancer. It is a nonprofit organization that teaches friends and family specific ways to offer support and help them understand what their loved one is going through.  In 2004, Breast Friends received its first grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.  Komen partnered with Breast Friends in 2005, inviting them to chair their Co-Survivor Initiative in Oregon at Race for the Cure, a position Breast Friends held for over five years.  It was founded in 2000 in Oregon and now has two other affiliates, one in Florida and one in Pennsylvania.  (Source: breastfriends.org/about-us/)