After a diagnosis of recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, it may feel difficult to maintain a positive outlook and keep moving forward. You may feel stressed, anxious, or scared about your doctor's visits. While feelings of fear or apprehension are completely normal, it’s also important to know that advanced breast cancer treatments can be very successful and new treatments are being developed and tested all the time.
"Sometimes we all need a little encouragement. Sometimes it won’t come from where we think it should, but if we ask, and keep an eye out we will stumble upon it. It might take the form of graffiti, or a snippet of overheard conversation or the small grace of someone you’ve never met but most times it’ll be just what you need and probably be just enough."
-- Laurel May Bond
Still, 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, social worker, or psychologist about your stress
- join a support group
- become a part of an online community, such as the Breastcancer.org Discussion Boards.
- 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.
You can learn more about journaling, meditation, prayer, progressive muscle relaxation, and other techniques mentioned above in the Complementary & Holistic Medicine section.
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.
“People ask me how I manage to treat patients with metastatic cancer. I just tell the patients the same thing I tell myself – you have to focus on that which you can control, not what you can’t. You can go online, educate yourself, be engaged, go to your family and friends for support, and you can live deliberately.”
-- Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., Breastcancer.org medical adviser