Putting on a brave face

Many women who are going through treatment for breast cancer feel they have to put on a brave face. For their children, for their partners, friends and most importantly for themselves. While although this may seem like the most logical approach, going through cancer is most often a scary and challenging time. It is important to understand the process and the help that is available to you to help ensure your brave face isn’t just a façade.

At Breast Cancer Haven, you will be given the opportunity to speak to and get support from our professional team who can help you address your questions and queries. We can give you a free tailor-made treatment plan, just for you, that can provide you with the emotional support you need and with practical strategies to help you and your family cope better through these difficult times. 

We can support you individually with counselling, hypnotherapy and emotional freedom techniques. Therapies like acupuncture, aromatherapy massage, reflexology and herbal medicine can also be calming and supportive to the mind and emotions.

We have regular classes and eight-week programmes of mindfulness-based approaches including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindful Self-Compassion. We also have a Living Well Moving On course and host Breast Cancer Care's Moving Forward programmes in some centres.

Counselling is not just available to you, a short course of counselling is also available for anyone close to you who may benefit from support through this challenging time.

Fear is natural

Dr Kathleen Thompson, known for her highly praised book ‘From Both Ends of the Stethoscope’, has experienced breast cancer and thanks Breast Cancer Haven for the support provided throughout her medical treatment.

In Kathleen’s book she writes:

Chemotherapy is undoubtedly a powerful treatment. Some people sail through it with few problems. Others find it tough. We all react differently to cancer treatments, both physically and psychologically. It’s just the way it is, and no reflection on individuals, so please listen to your own body and be kind to yourself.

You may experience side-effects during treatment, such as gastro-intestinal problems, fatigue and/or hair loss. You may be more prone to infection or bleeding. This will be monitored carefully and your treatment may need to be reduced or slowed down to allow the blood cells to recover.

Naturally you may be distressed by these side-effects, particularly hair-loss. There is an excellent charity called Look Good Feel Better, which offers a free workshop to teach women with cancer how to use makeup to hide or minimize effects of hair loss and other treatment side-effects, and also to help them feel better about themselves during a difficult time, and why not? There are useful YouTube videos, including Breast Cancer Haven's video about looking good and feeling confident during breast cancer.

Despite the popular image of people affected by breast cancer losing weight and looking frail and waif-like, this isn’t always the case. Breast cancer chemotherapy can cause weight gain. This can be yet another blow to your self- confidence at a time when you least need it.

Chemotherapy can bring on the menopause and affect fertility. You should discuss this with your doctor before treatment if you are planning a family. Various options, such as harvesting your eggs for future use may be an option. It all depends on your individual case and what treatment you will receive, so please don’t panic. Talk to your doctor and see whether it’s likely to be a problem first.

Chemotherapy can also affect you psychologically. Simply needing chemotherapy can have a huge effect mentally.

The word ‘Chemotherapy’ strikes as much fear into people’s hearts as ‘Cancer’. It creates an instant image of someone looking pale, sick, wearing a scarf to cover a bald head.

You can hear a thousand times that chemotherapy has improved over the years, or that many people can and do survive treatment. Nevertheless, long-held perceptions are etched into our psyches.

First, it’s sometimes best to acknowledge your fear. It’s natural and it’s there. You don’t always have to put on a brave face. People work in different ways, and some need to deny that they feel frightened, or even deny they have breast cancer, and that’s OK too. Surprisingly, denial can sometimes be quite a successful strategy.

However for many, it’s good to express your feelings and fears. Whom you choose to off-load on depends on your needs and available options, your partner, family, friends or healthcare professionals.’ Breast Cancer Haven can be an amazing refuge and help too at these times.

Extracts from: From Both Ends of the Stethoscope: Getting through breast cancer - by a doctor who knows by Dr Kathleen Thompson.

Breast Cancer Haven can help

As Kathleen said, we invite you to seek help and support to address your fear and the chance to talk about your worries, feelings and concerns. At Breast Cancer Haven, we can offer that emotional support in a variety of ways. We can help you find practical ways to deal with the effects of living with cancer and can help you find the solutions to problems.

For more information about the services offered at Breast Cancer Haven, please visit our website.