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Practical advice for managing daily life


Life after a breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be a mystery. Many women have been in your shoes. Some of them told us how to deal with the daily challenges you may face on the road to recovery.

There are some things you probably haven’t thought about yet. For example, it may be difficult to turn the steering wheel when exiting parking spaces after surgery. So you’ll want to look for a space where you can get in and out without having to back down.

And then there are the other things.

Prepare for hair loss

Many women worry about it when they are diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It might seem silly to others because the reason you lose your hair is to save your life, but it’s still a very difficult change to experience,” says Joan Grant, who has had cancer twice. breast.

Not all women will lose their hair. If you do, it will eventually grow back. To make the process less traumatic, cut your hair short before starting chemotherapy.

There are several ways to combat hair loss, including going natural or wearing a scarf or hat. Some people choose to wear a wig.

“Before I was diagnosed, I used to assume that people who have chemotherapy must be really sick and probably dying, and I didn’t want those compassionate looks,” Grant says.

If you go for a wig, make an appointment at a wig store before you start to lose your hair so they can match the wig to the strands you have. Human hair wigs cost more than synthetic wigs ($ 800 to $ 3,000 or more, compared to $ 30 to $ 500). Still, Grant says they’re worth it. They are more comfortable and look more natural. Grant suggests that you have a synthetic wig as a backup.

Unlike a human hair wig, which must be styled, a synthetic wig has a “memory curl” so that it retains its shape after washing and drying it. Just be aware that heat – like that from a hair dryer or flat iron – will damage a synthetic wig, something Grant learned the hard way when the heat from his oven fried the front of his.

Insurance often covers at least part of the costs. But check first because the amount they cover can vary widely.

Enhance your appearance

Treating cancer can make you look sicker than you really are. Chemotherapy can dry out your skin and make it look gray, green, or yellowish. Losing your eyebrows and eyelashes, which frame your face, “leaves a rather blank stare as you look at you,” says two-time breast cancer survivor Andrea Barnett Budin.

You can – and should – take the time to hide these changes.

“Not only will that uplift you, but the reaction you get from others and the glimpses of yourself that you see throughout the day will make you shine with pride,” Budin says.

There are things that will help you look – and, in turn, feel – your best while battling cancer:

Moisturize more often. Or you can use a thicker moisturizer than before the treatment.

Hide changes in your skin tone with foundation or tinted moisturizer. A moisturizing formula is ideal if your skin is dry. It will also be easier to blend on delicate skin. Apply it where you need it and mix it with a sponge or clean fingertips. For fuller coverage, use a foundation brush.

Add eyebrows using colored powder or eyebrow pencil in a shade that resembles your hair color. The eyebrow should start on your brow bone just above the inner corner of your eye. It should peak directly above the outer edge of the iris (the colored part of your eye) and end at the outer corner (it should be slightly higher than the inner corner).

Dot all of these places using the pencil, then connect them with light, feathery colored strokes in an upward motion, tapering the shape as you get to the end point. More comfortable with a clearly defined guide? Try an eyebrow stencil.

Create the illusion of lashes (or add fullness to your remaining ones) by placing the eyes as close as possible to the edge of your upper lashes. On special occasions, wear false eyelashes. “One New Years Eve, I had individual lashes professionally applied and I felt gorgeous and girly,” Budin says.

Know the basics of your bra

Which bra you wear right after your surgery will depend on the procedure you had and your doctor’s recommendations. In general, the goal is to create the “sports bra effect,” says Wendy Goltz, operating room nurse and breast cancer survivor.

“You want to keep everything in place to prevent jarring, which will reduce pain and scarring. »Most medical grade compression bras have front closures, which are easier to put on and take off.

At first, your doctor may ask you to wear a bra 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to minimize movement that can cause pain. If you have larger breasts, you may be more comfortable sleeping on the side that has not been operated on, with your healing breast supported by a pillow in front of you.

When your surgeon tells you that you can go back to regular bras, ask what type you should wear. Threads and lace can be uncomfortable if they press on the scars or rub your skin.

If you’ve had a mastectomy, but delay reconstruction or choose not to have it, speak with a bra specialist about your options. They can include a wide range of breast forms or prostheses that instantly fill the space where your breast was.

There are two main types: a lightweight model and a heavier, more realistic silicone version. There are dozens of variations of each. Have you had a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy? There are also bras that can make your breasts look more even.

Dress for comfort

If you’re having a mastectomy, stock up on oversized zip-up or button-down shirts. “You won’t be able to lift your arms for a while, so you won’t be able to pull anything over your head,” says Grant.

The tops should be spacious enough to accommodate any drains that will be attached to you. To help manage these drains while showering or dressing, wear a lanyard around your neck. These cords, which have a hook at the end, are ideal for cutting drains, says Mayde Lebensfeld, who had a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her cancer risk.

When faced with a long chemotherapy session (some can last for hours), Budin recommends wearing a “comfortable” outfit, including pants with an elastic waistband and comfortable shoes.

The right sleepwear can also make a difference. Slippery pajamas (and satin sheets) can make it easy to get in and out of bed when you’re in pain right after surgery.

This technique is also helpful: roll to the edge of the bed, swing your feet on the floor, engage your abs, then push your elbows up to straighten up.

Pillows can save lives while healing, as elevating the head, chest, arms, or legs can relieve painful areas. Budin suggests that you have a range of them on hand – hard, soft, large, and small – and rearrange them as needed to find relief.

For Grant, a wedge pillow was a must. “You will be more comfortable if you have good back support. “

Set up an assistance system

You may feel better talking to other people who have had breast cancer. Or you can’t. Perhaps an online support group, where you can come and go as you please, is more suitable for you than an organized meeting. This is what Budin found out when she joined a support group for people with cancer who are also HER2 positive.

“I learned a lot from my sisters,” she says. “But if things got too heavy, I just couldn’t participate.”

Support can take many forms. You should do what works for you. Don’t be too proud to let someone help with chores like cooking or grocery shopping. It will help you save your energy to get better.

Be patient with your new me

Recovery from surgery and cancer treatment is a process. It may take a while to get comfortable with the new you.

“I remember being horrified by my appearance after my first surgery,” Grant says. “But eventually you get to a point where the scars fade and the swelling goes down, and you look good again.”

Sometimes self-acceptance is just a matter of spirit rather than matter.

“I refuse to allow the sight of my naked body to depress me – it’s part of who I am,” says Budin, 71, whose “foob” (a fake breast) helps her look normal and shapely. . “I choose to love what I have, and I continue to be and feel feminine and sexy, even at my age.”

If you’re struggling to find a break with your body, spend some time alone in front of the mirror and look for a few items on your dressed body that are the same or appeal to you. Then do the same while wearing lingerie. Then, finally look at yourself naked and look for points about yourself that you like.

This exercise can help you overcome body image issues and feelings of being sexually unwanted shared by many breast cancer patients, says Lucia Giuggio Carvalho, nurse, breast cancer survivor and author of The All About Health Guide to Living with Breast Cancer. And that’s the key to a healthy physical relationship.

“Accepting yourself as you are is really the first step in achieving intimacy with your loved one. “

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