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Fear And Vulnerability Are Keeping Breast Cancer Patients From Asking Tough Questions

Health

Women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis often shut down. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did just the opposite. I told everybody I knew, and invited them to share the news. This is how I found my way to individuals and organizations that empowered me to make informed decisions, including patient advocates, integrative oncologists, and global communities including BreastCancer.org. I also have an academic background that helped me research the literature, so it was easy to access the wealth of information in books, scientific journals, and online.


More than 40,000 women in the U.S. die every year from breast cancer, and many more suffer with debilitating side effects. I myself live with the aftermath of a breast cancer surgery that my surgeon now agrees I may not have needed. Some of my decisions would have been different if I had known then what I know now. When you have cancer, you are afraid, and it's easy to cave to authority. I unfortunately did. The surgeons were simply following the standard of care at the time. I call this the “one-size-fits-all-approach."

My message to you: we all need to question authority when it comes to cancer treatment. Think about how thoroughly you research any major purchase—a car, a home. Cancer treatment is a big-ticket item involving choices that determine whether you live or die.

Why do we stop asking questions?

When you first receive a breast cancer diagnosis, you may ask “Why?", then “Why me?" And very quickly, many who are diagnosed become compliant, passive, and silent.

We stop talking because of fear. Of course, we fear our own death, and we fear pain and suffering. And, some may be afraid that their illness may be too big a burden for friends, family and work associates to bear.

A history of male authority in medicine contributes to our silence, too. As women with an intimately feminine form of cancer, we may literally feel embarrassed, ashamed or afraid to ask, and definitely afraid to disagree. When we begin to ask and explore, we find out that treatment options are complex.

Much of the most cutting-edge information is not presented by mainstream medicine.

You can find this information yourself, and you can also work with a patient advocate if you need help.

When you're confronted with a breast cancer diagnosis, become informed so that you can interact responsibly with your medical team and ask the right questions:

  • What are all of the treatment options, including alternatives to the standard of care?
  • What is the statistical outcome for survival for each option?
  • What are short-term and long-term risks, and side effects?
  • How can I minimize side effects?
  • What can I do to improve my chances of a good outcome?
  • What would you do if you were in my situation?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • How large is my tumor?
  • What grade is my tumor?
  • How quickly is my cancer growing?
  • Is my cancer invasive?
  • Has my cancer metastasized?
  • Am I a candidate for other diagnostic tests such as Oncotype Dx?
  • What is my hormone receptor status?
  • What is my HER2 status?

You can find more questions at My Breast Cancer Coach, and if you have a smartphone, download the My Cancer Coach App, which also features a list of questions for your doctor.

Ask the tough financial questions

Be sure that your doctor and your hospital will be covered by your insurance. If any part is not covered, have a financial agreement in writing prepared beforehand. Get help from a patient advocate in doing this if necessary.

Prevention is underrated, and poorly understood.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 85% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history. This means that lifestyle and environment play a greater role than heredity, which is good news because it means that many of the factors that cause cancer are in our control and largely preventable.

I am convinced that our constant exposure to man-made carcinogens in the environment is a big factor in cancer incidence. Because these substances are produced by huge corporations and allied with many governments, getting them out of our environment is a lifelong mission that requires long-term legislation.

On a personal level, my experience is that removing carcinogens from your own individual “terrain" will support your health, whether you want to lower your risk of initial cancer, or lower your risk of remission. An integrative oncologist may be of help to you here. My integrative oncologist gives me regular blood and saliva tests to measure the factors that help cancer grow, and we correct whatever is off through a combination of nutrition, supplements, exercise, stress reduction, and avoidance of environmental carcinogens.

Ask, question, research, and ask again

Remember that your surgeon and other doctors involved with your treatment cannot make the best decisions for you—you must do that for yourself. Question your MD's medical directives, and get second, third and fourth opinions. Own that power, and find the help you need to make your most conscious, deliberate choices.

There are many resources available. You can get medical information from the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and The American Cancer Society (cancer.org). You can get support from other patients at Cancer Support Community (https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/), and BreastCancer.org, where I found community as well as information. For example, through the remarkable global network of women living with breast cancer, treatment and side effects, I learned how to keep my hair – for which I am forever grateful!

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, all five of the surgeons I consulted agreed that I needed the procedure.

"The story would be different today, and it can be different for you. And I am grateful that I am now empowered to bring my message as an author and public speaker to everyone whose life is changed by breast cancer."
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How to Become an Expert at Managing Your Finances

It isn't always easy to stay on top of your finances, especially when you have developed unhealthy spending habits over the years. However, as you begin to realize the many benefits of having healthy finances, it can become something you want to make a conscious effort to improve. When your finances are in a good place, you often have access to better opportunities whether it be a mortgage loan, greater credit line or business loan. On that note, here is how you can become an expert at managing your finances in case you need a few tips.


Learn to Use Technology

The good thing about managing finances in the technological age is that you don't have to do it alone. There are so many apps available that will help you pay bills on time and track your expenses. For instance, some apps force you to live within your actual income and tell you what to do when you need to balance your budget.

If you need an app that will help you get better at saving, then some will set aside your spare change for you. Also, don't be afraid to use more simple tools such as your smartphone calendar to set reminders about payments if you don't automate them.

Seek Legal Advice

Sometimes, being an expert at something means understanding that you can't possibly know it all. This is why you have professionals around you that can help fill in the gaps where you're lacking. Consider hiring a legal firm to help with any challenges that are beyond you. Lexington Law is a good firm as they could help remove negative items from your credit report. Read this Lexington Law Review (Our #1 Credit Repair Service of 2019) to find out more about how they could help improve your finances.

Prioritize Learning

You can't do better than what you know when it comes to managing finances. You should, therefore, invest your time in learning more about finances and how to manage them. Think about what your goals for your finances are and what knowledge gaps you need to fill.

For example, if you want to invest in the stock market so that you can improve your net worth, then you may need to learn more about investing to do so successfully. To boost your knowledge, try reading articles on credible blogs that share finance information from professionals. Also, be weary of content from finance-driven companies as it could be biased.

Work on Growing Your Income

As a self-proclaimed finance guru, you know that the more sources of income that you have, the better. Work on increasing your streams of income so that you have more money to meet your targets whether it's to save for a property or put larger sums towards retirement. One way to do so would be by getting extra income by doing social media marketing for businesses or creating tutorials on YouTube. If you own a property, renting out rooms is a great way to make passive income.

Live Within Your Means

It can be difficult to live within your means when you live in a society that is always presenting you with things to buy. However, being more conscious about the things that you purchase could help you realize that most are wants rather than needs. To live within your means, always take time to think about a purchase as opposed to impulse spending. You should always get good at bargain hunting as many times you can find items of similar quality at a cheaper price.

Learn How to Manage Debt

Debt doesn't have to be a bad thing if you understand how it works and how to manage it. It can be a tool for credit building when you understand the fundamentals. For instance, if you take out a loan or credit card, always be mindful of your interest rates.

By paying the amount of money you borrowed back in full before the due date, you won't have to pay interest on what you borrowed. If you can't pay back in full, paying more than the minimum payment will ensure you incur less interest. For the most part, the secret to good debt management is never spending more than you can afford to pay back.

Managing finances is a life skill that can help improve your quality of life. By following the mentioned tips and taking your finances more seriously, you're more likely to master the art of healthy finances.