Health Beat: Breast cancer awareness: Advice from survivors

Health Beat: Breast cancer awareness: Advice from survivors

ORLANDO, Fla. - This year, more than 200,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Once diagnosed, their lives will change forever. 

Some breast cancer survivors, however, are willing to share their secrets in order to minimize the fear and isolation of cancer. 

The fear, the dread, the panic, all of the emotions that follow a diagnosis of breast cancer can overwhelm the toughest of women.

"I was fine," said Lisa Crites.

"I thought, 'This is it. I'm probably going to die now," Sherry Palmer said.

"I'll be okay. I was like as long as it's me and not my mom and dad," Jennifer Batchellor said.

It's not just the emotions; there are the doctors' appointments, the treatment options, and the side-effect, all of which can be a lot to digest.

"The physicians are so busy keeping you alive they miss the pragmatic pieces of advice," Crites said.

So, in order to get the pragmatic advice they needed, Crites, Palmer and Batchellor joined a support group called Breast Friends.

Their first piece of advice: "I did a lot of physical therapy where you literally walk your hands up and down the wall," Crites said.

For Crites, doing that for a couple weeks built up her strength. Palmer said surgeons will tell you to sleep in the recliner after surgery.

"You sleep in the recliner. When you're sick, you want to be in your own bed," Palmer explained.

So instead, use a wedge pillow.

"It helps with healing. It helps with swelling. It helps with drainage," Palmer said.

Batchellor said she learned to go out and enjoy the few good days she did have.

"Really take the time to get up, leave the house, go to the mall with your mom, or see a movie with a friend," Batchellor said.

The most important thing these ladies said to remember: "People, patients, have got to be psychologically accepting of the choices they make," Crites said.

Although cancer patients have long benefited from support groups, they may still have trouble talking about their experiences. Online intervention tools may be a different option.

In a study by the University of California at Los Angeles, researchers found that women with breast cancer who created websites as a way to cope the disease reported feeling less depressed, more positive, and having a greater appreciation for life.

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