In the USA this year a quarter of a million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, October is all about bringing a greater understanding of the disease and it’s effects on the patient and their carers.
The Shocking Stats
A quarter of a million American women will be told that they have breast cancer this year. The impact on their lives and those of their nearest and dearest can be devastating. While you might be familiar with that statistic, given the media exposure during this month of awareness, you may not realise that extrapolating that figure means that one in eight American women will receive that diagnosis at some point. One in eight! This means that one in three people will experience a mother sister or daughter with the disease… and that is over 100 million Americans. Over a third of all people will have to provide support at some level to a family member going through the mill of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation sickness. This in turn can require support as they learn how to take on each of these hurdles and provide the support and care required to see their loved one through the experience.
Help Is At Hand
The trouble is that from the moment your loved one receives the diagnosis you are on a journey of discovery. There are practical matters to contend with, getting them to and from hospital for appointments needs to be juggled with grocery shopping and taking care of kids. Coping with the psychological stress and administering medicines, sometimes with a needle, can be traumatic for all involved. The problem here is that very few hospitals provide support or advice for the caregiver… understandably for them the focus is very much on the patient.
Jack Anderson has written a book to provide exactly that support. Stand By Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Loved Ones is a detailed study that provides advice aimed at carers. Advice from medical experts is just one aspect. The main thrust of the book is to provide much needed advice to carers on the day to day of coping with the full range of real life problems that can manifest, so as well as the medical there is advice on emotional, psychological and physical problems you can expect to encounter.
The book has plenty of real-life stories to inspire patients and their carers. Our favourite, or at least one of them, is that of Victoria Vargas from El Paso. When learning that her Mum would lose her hair to chemotherapy she decided to shave her own head in solidarity. But she went one further and convinced her Mum to have matching tattoos of pink ribbons to mark the cancer journey that they were on together. Today her Mum has recovered fully and their tattoos are a permanent reminder of that difficult time. As Victoria puts it “Our tattoos will always be a reminder of all I went through with my Mom. Everyone has stories to tell behind a tattoo. This is a big story. When I am 80 years old and I lose my hair, I can tell my grand-children why it’s there”.
Great strides have been made in managing patients with breast cancer and it is no longer the death sentence it once was, even if it still carries that reputation. In fact, for stage 0 and 1 cancers the 5 year survival rate is almost 100% and for stage 2 cancers the survival rate is an incredibly high 93%.
Check yourself regularly and get along to the doctor at the first sign of a lump, it is likely to be a non-malignant cyst but get it checked early and there is very little to fear.