Sharing Your Breast Cancer Story Creates Bonds Among Strangers

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • I had lunch today with a friend, and her friend, who is undergoing breast cancer treatment, and looking for women to talk to who have survived the dreadful experience. I’m always happy to talk to other women, not because I am a naturally helpful and empathetic person, but because it’s the best way to repay the women who did the same for me when I was scared and uncertain about the future.

    Sharing a disease is a powerful way to create a bond among strangers. That’s the theory behind support groups, I guess, although I never wanted to join one. I don’t like groups, and I was too fragile during treatment to witness other women who were in an equally precarious state, or even worse. I’m all for sharing one on one, though.
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    One of things that still surprises me is the range of reactions women have to a breast cancer diagnosis: to keep working or to take a leave of absence, to attempt to carry on as if nothing has changed or to opt for a major break in the regularly scheduled programming, to put on a public face of courage and stoicism or to succumb to the dark side. I have come to learn, over the years, that my instant leap into the dark, pessimistic abyss, is not everyone’s first move.

    Another surprising revelation is how some doctors continue to deny anecdotal evidence that I find overwhelmingly true among my acquaintances. For example, chemo brain, which brings on memory loss and absent-mindedness and lessens your ability to concentrate. And yes, the combination of instant menopause from chemotherapy and tamoxifen, causes many women to gain weight. And yes, the physical fatigue from cancer treatment can linger for many months, so don’t expect to feel like your old self soon, or perhaps ever again. And the mental fatigue should not be lightly dismissed, either.

    The medical myths alone are a good reason to share your experiences with other women who are going through what you did. At best, you can offer some helpful tips and solace. Just knowing that someone has been down the same road and is now in a healthier, happier place can make a big difference. I doubt the day will ever come when the need to “pay it forward” diminishes.

Published On: March 03, 2006