Newly Diagnosed? Get Organized!

“You have breast cancer.” Those are scary words! So, now what? Where do you even go from here as you come to terms with the challenging road that lies ahead.

As you start to meet with your healthcare team, you’ll have a lot of information to digest. We put together a comprehensive guide to help you prepare for your next appointment. The more you organize, the less overwhelming things may seem. As you learn about your diagnosis, meet your healthcare team and discuss treatment options, it will be helpful to have all your notes as well as records and contact information. Here are a few tips for staying organized and informed:

Ask questions! The more you understand, the easier your decisions will be. Don’t leave the room until all your questions have been answered. Bring someone with you, especially in the beginning, to help you keep track of your questions, take notes and just be an extra set of ears.

Write it down! Keep a notebook or your Newly Diagnosed Navigator with you so you can jot down questions or thoughts anytime. Writing it down will help you remember it later. You can also record your appointments on your phone to listen to them later. You can download free iPhone apps here or Andriod apps here.

Get copies of everything! Store all your medical records, including your pathology report and any diagnostic tests in one place. Even the notes your doctor makes during every appointment can be included as part of your medical files. You have a right to all of this information. There are lots of reasons you should have copies of everything, including making it easier to seek a second opinion and helping you during tax time so you can claim the most deductions.

NDN_2014_coverChecklist for Your Appointments:

 – Your Newly Diagnosed Navigator
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Questions for your doctor(s)
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A list of your current prescriptions
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Notebook and pen
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Someone else to take notes or a way to record your appointment (voice recorder)

We also turned our most popular planning worksheets into fillable PDFs that you can download, edit and then save on your computer. Take them along to your appointments to help you communicate with your healthcare providers.

To use our fillable forms, open the document, save the PDF to your computer then work directly from the saved document.

Appointment Log
Healthcare Provider Contact Log
Side Effects Diary
Insurance Contact Log
Insurance Payment Log
Medication Log
Pathology and Diagnosis Record

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Categories: Resources & Support

Celebrating National Health Center Week

TwitterHeader-girl-ENGToday marks the start of National Health Center Week, which highlights the great impact of community health centers across the nation. Over the last 50 years, these health centers have provided invaluable preventive and primary care services to underserved populations–helping to reach vulnerable populations who may not otherwise have access to vital healthcare services. Through their extensive network of over 9,000 sites, community health centers provide care to approximately 24 million patients, including those who cannot pay or do not have health insurance.

We recognize the key role of community health centers in providing high quality healthcare to their communities in a way that is affordable and cost-effective. Through their culturally appropriate, linguistically supportive and community-focused programs, these centers provide essential services to young women affected by breast cancer and their families. From primary care to screening programs, community health centers serve as the “medical home” for many and ensure more young women diagnosed with breast cancer receive the ongoing cancer care and survivorship support they need.

Additionally, many patients rely on these centers for their regular health screenings. Whether it’s an annual check-up or a visit for a suspicious lump, the centers may be where a young woman discovers her cancer diagnosis. Primary care doctors often provide the first step in detection, referrals and appropriate follow-up care. Many community health centers also provide important ancillary programs like behavioral health services. We’re so appreciative of the support that community health centers offer underserved young women and their families as they enter the unfamiliar territory of a cancer diagnosis.

If you would like to utilize the services of a community health center in your area, you may find a location by entering your zip code. If you are uninsured, you can also find out about your health insurance options through the federal healthcare.gov website.

Learn more about the National Association of Community Health Centers’ advocacy work, research, programs and partnerships here.  

Everyday we encourage you to be your own best health advocate. Take some time to learn about the reliable resources available to guide you in scheduling additional health screenings. It’s important to remember–especially for young women affected by breast cancer–that some screening recommendations may be specific to your health and family history. Ask your doctor what is right for you. 

Below are additional medical care resources:

Secure Payment: Managing Your Health Insurance

Financial Assistance for those living with metastatic breast cancer

Long-term Survivorship information

Also encourage your loved ones to do the same by being in charge of their health! Everyone can benefit from health reminders and the comprehensive resources available.

 

 

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Categories: Taking my Body Back

State Leader Shout Out!

As an organization that helps support young women affected by breast cancer, we come across people who want to do more. They want to help spread the word that young women can and do get breast cancer.

Many times these are women who found support in what we offer and wish more people knew about the free programs and resources available. That’s why we created the State Leader program – an awesome way for you to assist in spreading awareness and helping others.

State Leaders are volunteer breast cancer advocates who represents YSC in their state. They assist in extending YSC’s mission by providing support to young women in their communities who’ve been affected by breast cancer and by participating in healthcare provider outreach, education and awareness activities throughout their region.

We’re always looking for new State Leaders in any state, but especially in Oklahoma, Iowa, Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware.

Right now, I’m happy to report that we have 139 State Leaders in 45 states!

sl map

In the last year alone, we had 62 new State Leaders join the team. They’ve already done amazing work in their local communities and beyond.

A HUGE welcome to our newest State Leaders

Shoutout

I reached out and asked our State Leaders what they found most rewarding about the program:

“I enjoy making connections with new members, sharing my story and offering comfort. Just knowing someone else had gone through what they’re going through is a sign of comfort they needed.”

“Being a catalyst for effecting change.”

“I feel very honored to be part of YSC. Being a State Leader allowed me to feel like I was ‘paying it forward’ to be able to share with others and raise awareness for the organization.”

Being a State Leader may be best summed up by this remark from one of our State Leaders:

qyote

A huge thank you to ALL of YSC’s amazing State Leaders. It is because of YOU that we’re able to reach more young women across the US and ensure they’re educated and empowered when facing breast cancer.

Interested in becoming a State Leader? Learn more about qualifications and complete an application today!

State Leader Shout Out!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Pregnancy & Breastfeeding After Breast Cancer

My husband, Matt, and I had always planned to have at least two children. After my breast cancer diagnosis at age 27 while five months pregnant with our first child, we weren’t sure anymore. A normal pregnancy quickly changed into a high-risk one while I underwent a mastectomy and three months of chemotherapy. The day after my last treatment, our son, Parker, made his entrance into the world five weeks early, but completely healthy.

In Parker’s first year, I was so afraid of a recurrence that I missed out on some of the joy of his milestones. The further out I got from my diagnosis, the more my fears lessened. I became more confident in my body again, and Matt and I began talking about having a second child.

At my two-year (post-treatment) appointment, I asked about having a second child. My oncologist raised his brow and said, “The longer you wait, the happier I’ll be.” At the time, it was believed that women with estrogen-receptor positive cancers may be at a higher risk for dormant cancer cells to become active again because of hormone surges during pregnancy. My tumor was estrogen-receptor negative, but it was slightly positive for progesterone, which is also elevated during pregnancy.

Despite his concerns, my oncologist also shared a positive study showing that pregnancy after breast cancer can have a “healthy mother effect.” I still had unanswered questions, but I was encouraged. I had been told  that surgery would not hamper my fertility, but chemotherapy might, so we weren’t even sure I would be able to get pregnant.

As I approached my three-year mark, my surgeon thought it would be fine to add to our family but Matt and I decided to wait another year. Soon, however, I realized my cycle was late. When a home test confirmed I was pregnant, I was shocked, excited and nervous. The first person I contacted was my surgeon, who was so happy for me. I felt instantly more at ease. She said that she would follow me closely during the pregnancy with visits every two months, which made me feel more confident.

In my sixteenth week of pregnancy, I felt a lump in my right breast. This couldn’t happen again? I panicked and called my surgeon. She didn’t think it felt like a cancerous tumor, but she performed an ultrasound and everything looked good. She told me to stop touching it and to come back in four weeks. It was so hard not to touch the lump. I obsessed over it. But four weeks later, the lump had disappeared. And the rest of my pregnancy went smoothly.

Emma and Jen (4 months old)

Emma Grace at 4 months old.

It was so nice to experience a normal pregnancy this time. Chasing after a toddler helped the time go by quickly. Matt and I welcomed Emma Grace into our lives in April 2003. I decided I wanted to try nursing, even if I could do it only from one side. If women can breastfeed twins, I thought, I can breastfeed a baby from one breast.

I had not had reconstruction yet, so I put Boobsie (the nickname I gave my breast form) into a nursing bra and it worked great. I breastfed Emma for six months from one breast, supplementing with formula. It was an experience I was denied with Parker, because my milk never came in. Although painful in the beginning, it was wonderful to see my breast as something beautiful again, instead of an enemy.

August is National Breastfeeding Month. You have likely heard that breastfeeding has been shown to be protective against breast cancer and beneficial for your baby. Of course, breastfeeding is not always an option and this makes you no less of a mom. This great article shares what you might expect, based on your cancer treatments and surgery.

Other helpful resources:

Learn more about fertility preservation, family planning and options after breast cancer treatment.

Can I get pregnant after breast cancer and when?

Research on pregnancy after breast cancer:

Pregnancy After Diagnosis Doesn’t Seem to Affect Recurrence Risk

Outcome of patients with pregnancy during or after breast cancer: a review of the recent literature.

Looking to help further knowledge on pregnancy during and after breast cancer?

POSITIVE Trial will capture data on pregnancy rates and outcomes on ER+ breast cancer, allowing women to take a “baby break” to go off of Tamoxifen, thus helping to determine the optimal timing for women on endocrine therapy.  

Pregnancy and Cancer Registry collects information about the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pregnant women.  It also follows breast cancer survivors who have a child after cancer to assess the health of both the mother and child long-term.

Download or order a free copy of YSC’s Post Treatment Navigator, which includes a section on fertility and other topics.

Talk with other women who have had children after breast cancer online through YSC’s Discussion Boards or in-person via SurvivorLink

For more about Jennifer’s story: Battling Breast Cancer While Pregnant

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That’s What Friends Are For

I am writing this from Montreal, about 350 miles from my home in New York City. I came for my cousin’s wedding, and that was lovely—but I arranged my return trip around the chance to see my YSC friend Theresa, a native New Yorker who now, with her husband and two lovely Canadian-born girls, lives here.

Angie and me at Sunday brunch when she was visiting New York.

I’ll see Theresa tomorrow—but I woke up this morning in my little AirBnb bedroom with the day unplanned before me and in a somewhat melancholy mood. The last time I was in Montreal was for Angie’s memorial. Angie, a bright light in the lives of so many of us in YSC. Angie who made us laugh till we cried; Angie who took it upon herself to head up so many “card showers” when YSC sisters needed extra support. Angie who was diagnosed just as she was about to take a great job out of law school, but who, due to failing health, never got to start that job. Angie, so smart, so incredibly kind—who, even with far too little time on this planet, made her mark in so very many ways. Here in Montreal, Angie’s home city, I wish so dearly that I could call her, see her face.

People ask me, sometimes, why I stay involved in YSC as I do. Why, when the news can be bad? Why, when there can be losses? Why would I continue to leave myself open to that?

The answer is as complicated, and as compelling, as life itself. Actually, the answer pretty much is life itself—which to me and to many of my YSC friends has even greater intensity and clarity than it did before cancer. Intensity because, yes, there can be losses, but even as we grieve, we are reminded to live our lives in the richest, fullest ways we can. And clarity in that what matters, and what does not, tend to stand out more obviously to us now, helping us make meaningful choices.

Like: Go to the loved one’s birthday party—hell, help plan the party. Celebrate every success, your own and others’. Travel. Send a gift; send a card (cost is not the point; send from the heart). Make the phone call; make the plan to meet. Go to the concert that makes you smile in anticipation. Tell those you love how you feel. Maintain healthy boundaries in draining situations. Touch base with your hopes and dreams—are they getting a fair share of your time?

My YSC friends—in NYC, all over the country, and in other countries too—help me remember to live this way, and they do it with me. Together, we strive; we celebrate; we try to keep perspective. And yes, if there are losses, we mourn together, too. The question is not why I would stay involved but why I would not. My YSC friends, and my engagement in the organization, help me to remember what matters in life.

As for today: I sent a message to YSC-er Sarah, who had mentioned possibly meeting up while I was here. I had absolutely no expectations, as 1) she lives two hours away and 2) she has never even met me in person before. But to my astonishment, Sarah is on her way. We will walk the streets of Montreal together.

Pamela is a writer, editor and young survivor based in NYC. You can read more of her work at communally.wordpress.com.

***
Tomorrow is the International Day of Friendship, proclaimed by the United Nations in 2011 in an effort to inspire peace and build bridges between communities. Today, more than ever, we need to celebrate our friendships—new and old, far and near. If you’re newly diagnosed, or if you’re just finding YSC, there are lots of ways to make friends with someone who has been right where you are—someone who will celebrate your wins and mourn your losses, someone who may well drive several hours to spend the day with you, even though you have never met in person before.

Connect online through our Online Video Support Groups or our Private Facebook Group.

Meet in person at one of our conferences.

Join a local Face 2 Face meet up.

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Vascularized Lymph Node Transplant: New Hope for a Big Problem

Lymphedema—permanent swelling in the arm or breast following removal of lymph nodes—is typically not a big concern for women initially diagnosed with breast cancer.  The clear priority is to treat the tumor, which leaves lymphedema on the back burner…until it becomes an issue. The problem is lymphedema is permanent, often worsens over time, and affects millions of people in the U.S. alone, but almost no one in the public has ever heard of it.

We do not know why some people get lymphedema and some don’t. We do know that it is not caused by a simple “blockage” at the level of the lymph node; it is caused by the immune system releasing certain inflammatory poisons that destroy your lymphatic vessels over time. The lymphatic system is the sewage system of your body and carries fluid waste (lymph) to your lymph nodes where billions of immune cells “purify” the waste by destroying bacteria and return this fluid to your bloodstream. Without this delicate organ intact, fluid accumulates, and you are at risk for developing serious skin infections called cellulitis. Over time, the fluid is often replaced by fat and scar. Early treatment with decongestive therapy by a certified lymphedema therapist is essential. This typically involves compression wrapping, specialized massage (manual lymphatic drainage) and ultimately wearing a lifelong custom compression garment.

There are fortunately some new advances that have been effective in treating lymphedema using microsurgery. One technique we routinely use is called vascularized lymph node transplant. This involves transplanting lymph nodes from one part of your body to the limb that has lymphedema, essentially replacing what was removed during surgery. It is not typically a cure, although some patients no longer require compression if they are treated very early in the disease process. One concern has been the risk of causing lymphedema in the area where lymph nodes are harvested for transplantation. This risk has been minimized by using a technique called reverse lymphatic mapping. More recently, we have completely eliminated this risk by using the omentum which does not drain any of the extremities. The omentum is a carpet of fat inside the abdomen which contains lymph nodes and a rich lymphatic network. Lymph node transfer is typically 3-4 hours and requires coordination with a certified lymphedema therapist post-operatively.  Results can take months or even over a year.

Symptoms of heaviness or very mild swelling may be the tip of the iceberg. A new imaging technology called indocyanine green (ICG) lymphangiography can uncover significant damage to the lymphatic system before swelling is obvious. These new technologies have opened our eyes to the lymphatic disease similar to the way mammography and breast MRI has led to early detection in breast cancer. Both medical and surgical advances in this field will continue to improve as lymphedema awareness increases.

Things to know about lymphedema:

 – Cellulitis (skin infection) in the arm or breast can be serious, having antibiotics on hand may be a good idea if you are prone to infection.

 – Risk of lymphedema is about 5% following sentinel lymph node biopsy, 20% following removal of all axillary nodes, and higher if you had radiation.

 – Risk of lymphedema is increased with increasing body weight.

 – Early treatment with certified lymphedema therapist is essential.

 – Vascularized lymph node transfer can be effective at reversing symptoms of lymphedema.

Breast cancer survivor with barely noticeable swelling in the left arm, complaining of heaviness.

Breast cancer survivor with barely noticeable swelling in the left arm, complaining of heaviness.

ICG Lymphangiography of the right upper limb showing normal lymphatic vessels.

ICG Lymphangiography of the right upper limb showing normal lymphatic vessels.

ICG lymphangiography of the left upper limb showing destruction of lymphatic vessels in the upper arm (the area of the white blush).

ICG lymphangiography of the left upper limb showing destruction of lymphatic vessels in the upper arm (the area of the white blush).

Breast cancer survivor with vascularized lymph node transplantation before its effect (left) and after 2 years (right).

Breast cancer survivor with vascularized lymph node transplantation before its effect (left) and after 2 years (right).

 

***

Thank you so much, Dr. Dayan, for highlighting this new technique to help reverse symptoms of lymphedema in young women affected by breast cancer!

More information on lymphedema can be found below:

What is lymphedema and will I get it?

How can I prevent lymphedema?

Lymphedema: Prevention & Management (audio)
Speaker: Jill Binkley, PT, MSc, FAAOMPT, CLT

 

 

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A Recurrent Theme

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Caroline C. Blaker, a 10 year cancer survivor & YSC’s State Leader in New Mexico, works for herself doing web design and development at Petroglyph Creative. She also co-leads ABQ WebGeeks, a professional web and software development group in the Albuquerque area

People who have been diagnosed with breast cancer know what it’s like to have their lives eclipsed by an unwanted, malicious force. Your hopes and dreams get put on hold and the only approach is to fight. And fight. And when we’re done fighting cancer, we’re left fighting the fear of its return.

It’s only natural that the notion of cancer returning would wreck us. Cancer eats at our personal resources, scolds us when we think about being truly healthy and it cannot be placated. It’s like we’re left babysitting cancer’s second cousin who isn’t a murderer, but merely the world’s most ominous douchebag.

Yet, we continue to bravely live. Bravery, after all, is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of its presence. And every second of life lived in concert with this fear of recurrence is a brave one.

I’m here to say this: You may always have your fear of recurrence, but you don’t always have to  yield to it. You can push back on being powerless against it. You can be comfortable again, “at home” in your mind. You can be the total bad-ass you were destined to be from the start, having wrangled your fear, subdued it and even gotten it to work in your favor.

 

Sure, it takes time. I’m not totally over my own fear of recurrence, but I’m working on it every day in the following ways:

1.) Eat what feels right. Instead of deprivation, I eat by listening to my body. By telling your body that it can’t have what it wants, you’re not honoring it and any craving will only get stronger. Honor cravings, but take note of when the food stops being totally blissful to eat. Get creative with healthy foods at times when you aren’t craving anything and you can start to program your body to crave healthier things. Releasing yourself from the constant badgering of idealized nutrition will open the potential to think constructively about it.

2.) Allow yourself a little space every day to make friends with your mind. This may include verbal self-soothing, a breath of fresh air, or a moment to shut your eyes and reach within. Being at home in your own head starts with the ability to have a quiet, pleasant experience as yourself, by yourself. The fear may show up, but that’s ok. Listen to yourself express it, then say you’re sorry. We’re all deeply, sadly sorry this happened to us.

3.) Talk back to the fear. Tell it what a jerk it is. Bust it up. Throw all of the pain it causes you right back at it. Roar at it, loudly and as often as necessary.

4.) Celebrate right now. Remember that hundreds of people were involved in developing, researching and participating in clinical trials for your treatment, and who took care of you on your path to wellness. Honor the folks who helped you, seen and unseen. Light a candle for them, do something nice for yourself because of them, or write a letter to one of them.

5.) Acknowledge and explore your newly complicated relationship with science. You may be looking back on aspects of your treatment feeling railroaded, like your choices were made for you by numbers. And yet, all we have to prevent cancer recurring is the generalized advice on staying healthy by nutritionists and athletes. Luckily, science doesn’t have to have all the answers. Non-science treatments like homeopathy, naturopathy, Ayurveda, aromatherapy and Chinese medicine can contribute to your mental and physical well-being.

6.) Hack at it. In web development, we have standard ways of approaching a problem: isolate it, try a bunch of things, find the solution and move on. Totally academic, right? Ha. What ends up being most useful is having a LOT of tools and even more strategies, which are kind of like football plays. Depending on the problem, you may need something very specific. You may also need to take a 4,000-foot view of the entire thing to inform your approach. Know that it is possible to develop a keen, relevant, bad-ass toolkit of personal problem-solving tools that you can deploy to make yourself laugh, divert your attention, and maybe eventually take away the power of fear when it creeps onto the scene.

7.) Don’t give up on the idea that something exists out there that may subdue your fear. It may be a prayer or a practice of some kind, an object, a person or an experience. Keep looking for it and working toward the fearless life you deserve.

***

Thank you, Caroline, for sharing your breast cancer experience and thoughts on fear of recurrence with us! Read more from Caroline on her personal blog here.

There are many complex issues and feelings young women diagnosed with breast cancer will face after treatment. That’s why we put together the Post-Treatment Navigator, a guide to “What’s Next?” so you know what to expect and can learn how to manage your “new normal” after initial breast cancer treatment. You can also connect with other young women like you either online, in person or one-on-one!

 

 

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Dating With Breast Cancer

Dating is hard in today’s world, but try dating with cancer. There are so many questions on how to bring up the subject of your diagnosis when meeting someone new. Questions like, should I tell them that I have cancer? How do I explain that I may not feel well sometimes and may not want anyone around? How does a young woman explain, “Oh by the way, I only have one boob?” How do I explain I am menopausal at 36 or that reconstruction is NOTHING like breast implants?  

At the time of my diagnosis in November of 2015, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful boyfriend by my side. We had started dating in July and he moved to live closer to me that October. When I was diagnosed the following month with breast cancer, I ended up quitting my job because I couldn’t afford the insurance they offered. I was able to get on medicaid while unemployed. Two weeks after my diagnosis, I had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy, radiation and the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. As a single mom, my boyfriend became our sole provider and he didn’t even live with us! The car payments, rent and bills for both of us really took a toll on our relationship. Not to mention the emotional toll from him having to provide me with confidence, strength and love all the time. He also had trouble understanding why I didn’t want to hang out, which was because of my treatment and not our relationship. We ended up taking a month apart to destress from our new relationship.

It was during our month apart that I performed an experiment to see what men really thought about dating a woman fighting breast cancer. I went undercover on the website Plenty of Fish using the name “Radioactive,” which seemed fitting since I was undergoing radiation at the time. I had four men reach out about dating me at once – so don’t give up hope ladies!!  

Later, I returned to Plenty of Fish and did my own outreach. I messaged four men: a postman, an artist with no car, a factory worker with a harley and an engineer. Each returned my messages and even wanted to meet.

I found that the easiest way to date is to be honest. I didn’t hide my diagnosis. In fact, I threw it out there for the world to see! In my profile. I wrote about my breast cancer and that I was in-treatment and looking for a fresh start. Later on in my messages with the men, I told them about being menopausal with one boob and that I had no hair and eyebrows. Even my profile pictures were current showing that I was bald. I didn’t hide a thing and I was amazed with their responsiveness.

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Soulmates!

Remember, you really can date while fighting breast cancer. You deserve to have someone who loves you and treats you like the Queen that you are. Be strong and realize you have the right to happiness, ladies, more than anyone else. You need to throw yourself out there and give it a shot! I promise you have nothing to lose whatsoever and the problem will be you don’t like them, not the other way around.

This experiment helped me learn that the problem was never really mine in the first place. I decided against meeting the four men I was messaging on Plenty of Fish because I wasn’t over my ex-boyfriend. I realized there was no one on earth who understood me better. He’s my soulmate and I look forward to marrying him one day.

***

Do you have dating advice to others recently diagnosed with breast cancer? We’d love to hear it! Share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more tips on relationships and other important topics, download the free Newly Diagnosed Navigator!

You can also connect with other women currently in-treatment from the comfort of your home through YSC’s Online Video Support Groups, starting August 1st. Topics to be discussed include treatment sides effects, anxiety, depression, relationships and coping.

Don’t forget to keep the conversation going about dating on YSC’s Private Facebook Group, a safe space to build community with those who understand. You can talk to other survivors, ask questions, share articles and make connections!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Way to Connect from Home

Nine months ago my life was forever changed when I got the phone call confirming all three breast biopsies were malignant. A few days later, a pet scan confirmed that my breast cancer had spread to my liver. In that moment, my world turned upside down and my perspective on life was forever changed.

Tami Bowling w/ daughtersI was looking for a way to connect to other young women and was so happy to learn of the YSC Online Video Support Groups. As a 42 year-old mother of two young children, it’s hard to get a babysitter and leave the house, so this was the perfect way to help myself right from my home. It was so helpful to see the faces of the other participants while relating to their struggles. Each week, the moderator covered different topics and the participants offered different perspectives. It was helpful to know that I was not alone and that there is a way to live happy, despite breast cancer and metastatic disease.

Here are a few key takeaways from the sessions I attended:

 – Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how you react to it. Take it day by day and conquer each battle one day at a time. In the meantime, smell the sweet roses along the way.

 – Your faith has to be stronger than your fear. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are strong and that you are beautiful.

 – Life is really about relationships. The relationships you have with your friends, your family, your work colleagues and yourself. It’s too often that we just get through our days without doing what we really want to do. I encourage you all to write down your dreams, both big and small, and set forth to make them happen.

I’m still terrified that I may not live a long life, but thanks to my support group I’m more determined than ever to live a meaningful, happy life.

***

Good news! You can register for the next YSC Online Video Support Group sessions! We currently offer 3 different online video support groups that meet once a month. Register for the one that’s right for you: In Treatment, Metastatic or 30 and Under.

Each group is professionally led and you can drop-in on any group at anytime as they run continuously through June 2017.  In Treatment, Metastatic or the 30 and Under group.

In Treatment: 1st Monday of the month
7:30pm-8:30pm EST (4:30pm-5:30pm PST)

30 and Under:  2nd Wednesday of the month
9pm-10pm EST (6pm-7pm PST )

Metastatic: 1st Monday of the month
9pm-10pm EST (6pm-7pm PST)

(Blog updated as of July 15, 2016, originally posted on January 22, 2016.) 

 

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15 Ways You Can Help a Young Woman Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Hearing a young woman you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer can leave you feeling helpless. You may not know what to say or understand what she’s going through, but there are ways you can lend a much needed helping hand. Here are 15 ideas to help get you started.

1.) Stay in touch.
Even when you don’t know what to say, keep in touch. Send a card, drop an email or text. Just saying, “I am sorry you have to go through this, but I am thinking of you” can brighten her day. Continue reaching out even after her treatment is over as she begins her “new normal,” which is often scarier than the initial treatment phase.

 2.) Keep people updated.
Keeping family and friends informed can be overwhelming, offer to take on that role. MyLifeLine.org has a free service for cancer patients, where you can easily post the latest information and loved ones can leave notes of support. CarePages is another good resource.

3.) Help get dinner on the table.
This can be something you prepare or pick-up. Be sure you ask if there are any foods to avoid. Gift cards to favorite restaurants also work. You can easily help organize meal deliveries with an online scheduler like Lotsa Helping Hands where people can sign up to bring meals. If she’s not up for visiting at meal delivery, have her place a cooler by the front door.

woman-cleaning-floor-with-vacuum4.) Be a treatment buddy.
Accompany her to a treatment session and keep her company.

5.) Assist with household chores.
Get a group of friends to volunteer to help with laundry, cleaning the house or collect money to help pay for a cleaning service.

6.) Watch the kiddos.
If she has children, she might need help with childcare during treatments or just time for a nap. Take the kids off her hands for a few hours and help ease her mind.

7.) Be a Wig/Hat Shopping Partner.
If she will lose her hair from treatments, offer to go wig or hat shopping when the time comes. A friend will let you know if something looks fabulous or if you should put it back on the shelf.

pick up prescription8.) Run an errand.
Do the grocery shopping, pick up a prescription, drop the kids off at school, anything that can make her life easier.

9.) Provide some entertainment.
She may have a lot of down time, so help her get lost in good books or movies. Purchase an online movie membership like Netflix, so movies can easily be downloaded or shipped to her home. If she is an avid reader, buy her some books, give her a gift card to download books or order them online or check books out of the library for her.

thank-you-515514_960_72010.) Make airport runs.
Taking relatives to/from the airport can be a life saver.

11.) Help with writing thank you notes.
It can be hard to keep up with these, especially if treatments are brutal on the patient. So, if it she isn’t up to the task at the time, keep a log, so that she can look back through all of the kind gestures when the fog has lifted.

12.) Throw her a party.
There are many ways to have a little fun while helping her go through a hard experience. If chemotherapy will bring hair loss, she might enjoy a hat party (scarves and caps are great, too).  Or throw a celebration party when she hits a big milestone (like the end of a treatment).nails done

13.) Plan a pamper session.
An easy way to perk her up is to take her out for a pampering – a facial, manicure or pedicure. Just make sure she is at a point in treatment where there that is okay.

14.) Send a unique gift.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Maybe a photo of a favorite memory or something that will grow (like a plant or tree) so that she can see how far she has come.

15.) Do something for the primary caregiver.
Take them out for a drink, a special pampering, a ballgame or something they would enjoy. It’s a rough time for them as well!

Did you know that YSC developed tips for caregivers including organizing help and advice? It’s important that supporters take care of themselves. Check out some of these useful resources and tips to ensure you’re receiving the crucial support you need to help you in your vital role as a co-survivor and caregiver.

– Caring For You
How to Help
Handling Finances
– Get Involved
Caregivers’ Bill of Rights

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