- Question from Book Lover: Tomorrow is my six-month check up. Does the fear of recurrence ever get better?
- Answers - Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S. The fear of recurrence, I feel, does get better with time. It is very similar to the loss of a loved one. Going through the first year with each milestone of a holiday can be very traumatic, but with future holidays, though the loss is still there, you start to come to grips with it. For you, about to experience your first 6 month follow up, you haven't yet gotten good news. Hopefully receiving good news, which we hope you will tomorrow, will set you on a path of feeling a bit more optimistic about your health and your body so that the following 6 months won't be quite as hard as the last 6 months were. Also, as your doctor then expands the intervals between your diagnostic evaluations, making them eventually annually, hopefully that will make it a little bit easier too. I do encourage you though to have someone go with you, someone who cares about you, because it will be very normal to be extremely nervous, to kind of hold your breath while they are doing that mammogram. All going well, it would be nice to have someone there with you when you get that good news.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. The fear and uncertainty can get better, but there may be roller coaster rides here and there. Breast cancer awareness month can be really rough where even your yogurt container and every single TV station is featuring some story about the disease. I find that whenever and wherever you can reduce the uncertainty in your life around the breast cancer experience, you will feel much more at ease. This means getting answers to your questions sooner than later. Report your concerns and symptoms to your doctor. Don't hide them. Try to know what to expect. If you go for a mammogram and you hate waiting for the results, try to find an excellent facility that provides you with the mammogram reading on the spot. Know how to reach the people who can provide you with the answers that you need. Get phone numbers, addresses, fax numbers, emergency numbers, and email addresses as you need them, in case you need them. I also find that connecting with other people can provide you with some of the greatest support.
- Gwen Darien I think that Dr. Weiss talked about something very important, which is to report your symptoms and talk about them. Many of us tend to be the good patient. I think it is important to find a health care provider with whom you feel comfortable discussing openly your fear, symptoms, anxieties, etc. so you don't have to be a good patient with them. If it is important for you to make sure that you get the kind of response that you want when you need it, make sure you go to a center that does this. If you want to be able to call your doctor when your fear surfaces, make sure you have a doctor that is open to that. Take care of reducing your anxiety in any way that you can, usually through communication.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. A lot of times, we are unsure of what we need. Sometimes the hardest work is figuring out what you are worried and concerned about and what you need to feel better. Once you are clear on what is bothering you, it becomes a lot easier to reach to whoever or whatever can help.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Tackling Fear featured Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S., Marisa Weiss, M.D. and moderator Gwen Darien, Editor-in-Chief, MAMM Magazine, answering your questions about how to manage breast cancer fears.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2001.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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