Drawing on some of the common concerns and worries we shared together during our diagnoses and struggles with cancer, here are some of the main questions that arose. It's not an exhaustive list and more will be added over time.
The health and medical information provided on this website is of a general nature and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational and supportive purposes only. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
Q. I have been to the hospital and I have been told I have breast cancer. I am in shock and feel totally isolated. How can anyone else understand how I feel when I can't even put it into words?
A. A diagnosis of cancer is a shock, no matter who receives it and it takes some time to get your head around it. Your breast care nurse initially will be able to answer some of your questions, particularly the practical ones, but there are also ways you can connect with other people who have been or are in the same situation as you. It can be reassuring and comforting to speak to others who will understand exactly where you are coming from whether it's in person, online or by telephone. Don't be afraid to ask other patients what kind of local support there is. Sometimes it's only by word of mouth that you find out what is right under your nose. Online forums such as Macmillan and Breast Cancer Care will provide you with instant access to other people in your situation. They are also there to provide support for your partner and friends and family, too. No-one can totally understand how you feel because each of us is different, depending on our life experiences, but other people with breast cancer can identify with the shock and fear which comes with a diagnosis and that provides a direct route to talking about how you feel without having to explain everything. If you are struggling to find local services to support you, please drop us an email by using the 'Contact Us' page and we will see what we can find.
Q. Chemotherapy is making my mouth really sore and painful. I have ulcers on my tongue and inside my mouth. It's making eating difficult - that's when I feel like eating! What can I do?
A. It's very common to get a sore mouth and tongue during chemotherapy. You can ask your GP or oncologist to prescribe a mouthwash such as Difflam which will help. You can use it to prevent a sore mouth, too, by using it 3 times a day before the sore patches even appear. Drinking plenty of fluids is very important during chemotherapy, too. Some people find pineapple juice is helpful, particularly if you make your own fruit juice lollies as the frozen juice is soothing. Cloudy lemonade is another popular drink. The main thing to remember is that you don't have to suffer side-effects. Your doctor or specialist breast care nurse will have plenty of experience in what can help but they won't be able to do that unless you tell them you have a problem.
Q. Although I've spoken to my oncologist, I feel the situation is worse than they are telling me and I am sure the cancer has spread. This fear is eating me up and I don't know what to do.
A.It's very important that you feel you can trust your oncologist and cancer nurse specialist so that you can talk to them about any fears you have. The shock of a diagnosis can make us believe all kinds of things so it's not surprising that you worry things may be worse than you've been told. You will also be the best judge to know how things feel in your own body and it's so important you can work as a team with your oncology team. Please talk to them about your fears and ask any questions you have held back on. If you don't feel you can do this, make sure you speak to one of the specialist cancer organisations. Macmillan have nurses you can speak to who will understand only too well how you are feeling and while they can't speak about your own circumstances, they will understand the fear you may feel. You can call them on 0808 808 00 00. There are also online forums at both Macmillan and Breast Cancer Care where you can talk to others in similar situations to yourself. It's not possible to tell you whether your fear is accurate but it is possible for you to get support and to raise the issue with your healthcare team. Don't keep your fears to yourself.