Little discussed fact - it's often in the mammogram waiting room that you realize you have cancer. It's in the way the tech gets quieter and more gentle. It's in her voice when she tells you to please wait because the radiologist would like more pictures. When I went for my mammogram and afterwards the nurse told me that the radiologist would like to do an ultrasound, I think you could probably hear my heart drop to floor. It landed and shattered like glass. Of course nobody says anything specific yet. It's just the big, scary pink elephant in the room with the word CANCER on it in bold letters.
So, the first thing I learned was never, EVER go to a mammogram alone. This is my mantra to women I meet. Get a bosom buddy. You just never know. Of course, you know this now. My dear readers,you know how your life changes in a second. Breast cancer is one of the only diseases where the patient comes in feeling quite well, but the treatment makes her sick.
In my book, I end each section with my top 5 tips. So, for dealing with the first shock of diagnosis, I offer the following TOP 5.
1. DON'T panic. I know, you're shaking your head right now but you really don't need to panic. You have to function - so you have to swallow and breathe and be smart.
2. Rally the troops. Think of anyone you know who may be able to help you navigate the next steps. You'll need doctors first and then maybe help with the kids, the house, the cooking and cleaning, time off from work. Start making a list of people to call. This is not the time to be a hermit. I know that some people like to keep this information quiet, but here's the problem with that: Our medical system is set up so keeping it quiet may hurt you in the end. You need to know who the best people are, and you may need help to get in to see them because the best ones are busy. Yes, it matters, so name drop like a talk show host when you call the office to get an appointment. Ask everyone you know for referrals. The more support you have during this time, the better off you and your family are going to be. People will want to help if you ask them. Don't be shy. The first step, though, is to find the right doctors. Do whatever you have to do.
3. Breathe - this is just the beginning. At this point, you may not know much yet. There are tests and more tests to come. You can do this!
4. STAY AWAY FROM THE INTERNET! Yes, I realize the irony of this statement, but aside from this blog - this is not the time to start researching everything that's ever been posted about breast cancer. The statistics are scary and they don't apply to you yet. In fact, this is good advice for the whole of your treatment. Not that I'm worried about the competition, but random chat boards can freak you out for no reason. Believe me, I know this from experience. I hold my computer responsible for many sleepless nights.
5. DONT PANIC! Yes, it's worth saying again. You CAN do this.