- Question from Ann-7: I am always afraid. I had two stage-1 cancers, negative nodes and the doctor told me I will be here when I am 80. But I am always afraid. There are no guarantees. Everything makes me nervous. How do I get rid of this fear?
- Answers - Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. Everybody has fear with this diagnosis, but having it twice makes emotional recovery more difficult. It does happen and the best answer is, unfortunately, time. It will probably take longer than a person who had one incident. Whatever optimism you had to recover from the first, your defenses are ragged going through it a second time. When I have met people who have had two local breast cancers I will tell them about a man who is a volunteer in the hospital who has had several serious cancers and is alive, well, and working full-time at the age of 80. Apparently his body produces cancer and his body is also able to fight it off and be well. Breast cancer, particularly Phase I, is a cancer that physicians can treat successfully. It is expected that you will be around until you are an old lady. Believing that is something else; with time and distance, that will just happen.
Marisa Weiss, M.D.
It is normal to be afraid of something that is threatening to you. One of the things that you can work on and modify is the anxiety that often goes along with that fear. If you are experiencing regular anxiety that is just getting in your way of everything that used to be pleasurable or even ordinary, then it is important for you to seek out help from someone who has expertise in your area. There are many things that can be done to make an important difference in how you experience the fear and anxiety. There are support groups, therapy, medications, and time going by that can be reassuring.
I also think that it is helpful to try to identify what it is that is making you anxious and fearful. Maybe there are specific concerns that you have that you could ask your doctor about; for example, getting an answer to a question that is currently uncertain in your mind. In my practice, I am always amazed at things that women are holding on to that are scary to them and that they are afraid to share. Many of those things can be resolved through discussion and by getting answers to questions that have reasonable answers. When you are diagnosed with breast cancer it comes as such a shock. Most women are struggling to figure out why it is happening to them and you end up looking over your life at various things you did or didn't do, and you wonder if any of those things may have contributed to the diagnosis. This can be the source of guilt, shame, and embarrassment, as well as fear. Getting those feelings out and expressing them can make a big difference, I think.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Dealing With Breast Cancer Fears featured Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about aspects of breast cancer that cause concern.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2002.
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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