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Coping with Breast Cancer

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Written by Josephine Tong

About 1 in 8 women (12%) will develop breast cancer. Breast cancer impacts not only the individual, but also the individual’s personal relationships. A breast cancer diagnosis can be scary, but learning how to cope with this illness can help you better manage your physical and emotional health.

Facing the diagnosis of breast cancer is never easy. Initially, you may feel that you have lost control of your life and are overwhelmed with some of the medical decisions that have to be made.  However, learning about breast cancer and discussing treatment options with your doctor can help you feel more informed and in control.

Coping with breast cancer may be a challenging journey, even for the strongest people. You may feel a mix of emotions such as confusion, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, or hopelessness. This is in addition to some of your worries like the side effect of treatments, the medical bills, or your children’s future. All of these worries may keep you awake every night, but you do not need to face these challenges alone. You may ask your family and friends to be there by your side to support you through these times. You might consider seeking extra care and support from your doctor or other professionals like social workers or psychotherapists. If you are still concerned by the negative emotions and feel overwhelmed by your current condition, joining a cancer support group may also help.

Cancer support groups are led by professionals or trained cancer survivors.  It allows you and other patients with similar diagnoses to meet on a regular basis. The conversations in the group are about some of the experiences and feelings that you and other members might be going through. As you attend more sessions and gain more comfort in the group, you will begin to notice reduced feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, pain, and fatigue. The support group will also let you learn from each other on how to cope with the challenges of cancer, which may help you feel happier with your self-image and be more in control of your life. Research has also shown that breast cancer patients will have better survival rates as they increase ways of social support, including cancer support groups.

At the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, our breast cancer support group is called Rainbow Club, and has shown to be a valuable resource to many of our patients. One Rainbow Club member shared, “After joining the support group, I can relate to other members about how I feel so I no longer feel scared or alone.” We invite all breast cancer patients, all women diagnosed with breast cancer, and breast cancer survivors to join our support groups located in Flushing and Chinatown. You do not have to be a health center patient to attend the support group. Please call 212-941-2233 ext. 2533 for more details. By joining a breast cancer support group, we hope that it will lead to happier and healthier lives, along with building mutual support between other women going through similar circumstances.

Click here to learn about upcoming Rainbow Club meetings.

Josephine Tong, LMSW is a clinical social worker at Charles B Wang Community Health Center. One of her current roles is overseeing program development with the Komen breast cancer support team and the director of social work, Manna Chan.