DR. CELESTE CATANIA-OPRIS, PH.D., LMFT
Every October, our nation celebrates “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” in which we honor those who have battled breast cancer. Pink ribbons are commonly handed out at local events and nearby convenient stores, which serve to increase awareness of the disease. Although we all may not have personal experience with breast cancer, we all have been advised by our doctors over the years to frequently “check” ourselves. This means conducting a self-examination and scheduling an appointment for a yearly checkup.
Waiting for the results can be extremely nerve-racking and cause severe anxiety for many individuals. For some, the results come back negative. For others, perhaps a lump was found, giving you the news you never expected.
When a lump is found, the initial reaction tends to include panic, worry, and fear. Some fear if the lump is malignant and if it is indeed breast cancer. People also worry how their family members may take the news. Perhaps breast cancer is common in your family and you have mentally prepared yourself over the years, just in case. Either way, this can be the most terrifying time of your life.
During these moments, it may be useful to utilize a support group—relatives, friends, co-workers, or even a therapist. As uncomfortable as it may be, attempt to let others into your world. Carrying heavy news can be difficult even for the strongest person.
If you are someone who prefers to be physically alone, then online support groups may be a great option for you. There are several support groups online which include individuals dealing with similar experiences. For instance, dailystrength.org, cancercare.org, and nationalbreastcancer.org all offer online support and the ability to connect with those who are also fighting breast cancer.
During times of feeling helpless or overwhelmed, we can unknowingly push others away. Some individuals may not want to “burden” their loved ones and to ask for help is something they do not feel comfortable doing. However, informing others of what is going on during a life-altering time can offer your loved ones the opportunity to be present and supportive when it is truly needed. This can mean going to doctor appointments with you, keeping you company when you feel alone or lost, or even sending you random text messages telling you how much you are loved.
No one will ever know exactly how you feel, not even the best professionals. Others can understand, empathize, relate, and so forth, but your experiences are uniquely yours. Your emotions may change throughout this process, hence the term “emotional rollercoaster.” Just like a rollercoaster, you will have your ups and downs. During these times, look around you and see who is there. Hold on to those people and love those people as they love you, because if you have not noticed it already, they are coming along for the ride.
Celeste Catania-Opris, Ph.D., LMFT, offers therapeutic services to individuals, couples, and families. www.TherapyForModernHousewives.com.