- As you begin gathering information to make decisions, get to know the people on your medical team and make every effort to meet them in person. Turn faceless doctors into known resources. These are the people you've hired onto your team to help you. You'll find out who is the best communicator, who can answer which questions, who is available to help you when you need it most.
- Find a doctor who communicates with you in a way that is comfortable for you, who invites your questions and takes your concerns seriously, who gives you as much or as little information as you feel comfortable with at any given moment.
- Find out what to expect from tests, procedures, and treatments. Minimize surprises.
- Make plans with your doctor about how to receive test results in a prompt way. If possible, try to schedule important tests early in the week, so you don't have to wait over a long weekend when lab work may slow down or doctors aren't communicating with each other.
- Find a mammography center where the radiologist will talk with you about the results before you go home, so you don't have to wait for a letter or a call from your doctor.
- When you know you're going to have a challenging week (a mammogram coming up or a round of chemotherapy), don't plan to do things that are stressful for you (for example: balance the checkbook, cook dinner for 20, or run a big meeting at work). Use your support systems — friends, movies, yoga, prayer — to help you get through it.
- If well-meaning people try to tell you stories about others struggling with cancer, stop them right away and say, "I only listen to stories with happy endings!"
- If you reach a point where difficult emotions are getting in the way of your functioning or taking care of yourself, speak with your doctor about the role of medications that might help ease your anxiety, depression, or sleeping problems.
- Join a breast-cancer-related group. This can be a support group or online discussion board — a place to share your breast cancer experience openly with people who understand. If you are more action-oriented, look for a breast-cancer-related athletic group, an organization that holds breast cancer education programs, or an advocacy group that lobbies for more research funding or free mammograms. Do whatever makes you feel connected to others in a positive way as a person who is moving beyond breast cancer.
- Work on ways to feel more positive about your life. Seek out productive, life-enhancing experiences; accept yourself for who you are; and spend time with positive people who affirm who you are and how you've chosen to deal with this disease.
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