Making Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions

Recently, I was thinking about the choices many young women are confronted with when we’re dealing with breast cancer — and how the situation is a little bit unique. In speaking to a 15+ year  early stage breast cancer survivor, I learned that she didn’t feel she’d been offered many treatment options. When my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2008, it felt the similar: the treatment was the treatment, and we just got onboard the train.

But with breast cancer now, it’s different. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, I learned that pretty quickly. Like many others, the first choice I was confronted with was regarding my surgery.

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My surgeon made her recommendations, and even shared what she would personally do in my situation. The decision was mine, but the weight of it felt crushing at times — maybe because it seemed like there was no solution I was going to feel exactly psyched about.

I asked some friends on Facebook about their toughest decisions and their responses ran the gamut, from decisions about reconstruction, to radiation, to fertility, to hormone therapy. Many cited their early-on decision about surgery as their most difficult one to make; some are years into treatment and grappling with making choices about new therapies when the data is limited. Regarding how to cope, one friend said,

“I think you learn to operate in a state of the unknown. I don’t think it ever gets easy, less frustrating or fear-inducing, but you are more adapted to coping and navigating in that space. Or I guess I should say, void.” – Kate, diagnosed age 25

I think she’s right. For many of us diagnosed with cancer as young adults, these choices don’t get easier — but in making them, we might learn a bit about the way in which we make decisions.

But I want to hear from you: What has been the hardest health-related decision you’ve had to make, and what helped you make it? How do you sit with your decision afterwards? Leave your answer in the comments, and it may be included in a future post.

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