Jane Vaughan; diagnosed in 1991 at age 53; writer; Texas
"I strongly recommend to anyone newly diagnosed that they join a clinical trials study. It is like having the undivided attention of a complete support system at all times."
Jacki Anthony; diagnosed in 1998 at age 48; nurse; Massachusetts
"The four words that I live by: This too shall pass."
Suzanne Almond; diagnosed in 1996 at age 60; secretary to the Special Services Director; New Hampshire
"Remember to thank your healthcare team as you navigate through the system of treatment. You would be surprised how much they worry about you as they plan your course of treatment."
Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46; insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon
Helpful Little Tricks
"Take another person with you to your doctor appointments to act as your advocate. They can ask questions you forget to ask and can make sure things are well explained. Also, take a list of questions with you, so you don't forget to ask the doctor something important. I know a woman who used to fax her questions in advance to her oncologist. Tape recorders are good for remembering the answers."
Sharon Irons Strempski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 52; registered nurse; Connecticut
"My mother and my husband were with me at every doctor's appointment after my diagnosis. My mom kept a spiral notebook with her at all times to take notes. When we went for the first consultation to discuss the results of the pathology report, my mother had written down all the words that could possibly describe a tumor. When the doctor began, Mom just started circling words. This helped all of us to concentrate on what the doctor was saying. It was also helpful when reviewing later and doing research."
Jennifer Wersal; diagnosed in 2000 at age 30; marketing; Texas
"After my diagnosis, my dear friend and neighbor, Diane, came to the rescue. Because my husband and I were numb and couldn't 'hear,' Diane went with us to see three surgeons, a radiation oncologist, and a reconstructive surgeon. She took notes, and we discussed my options later. One surgeon also taped our consultation. I suggest to others that they take a tape recorder to all appointments, plus a 'Diane'someone who loves you but can distance themselves."
Marianne Rennie; diagnosed in 1988 at age 39; cancer information specialist; Ohio
"Take a little tape recorder with you when you have your initial consultations with the surgeon and oncologist. Even if you have a friend or family member with you, there is just too much information to remember. I was able to replay the tape for my mother and sister, and it helped to answer questions that I had later on. There is just too much emotion going on to have to rely on your memory for technical terms and procedures."
Deb Haney; diagnosed in 1996 at age 48; administrative assistant, artist; Massachusetts
"When I was first diagnosed, a friend suggested I keep a journal of everything that was happening to me -- what the doctor said, when and what the treatments were, and so on. I began doing that but found it to be too consuming. I was a pretty well-informed patient, and I didn't think I needed to concentrate on my cancer this way. Instead, I decided to keep a 'grateful journal.' Every day I wrote down five things that I was grateful for. Granted, some days it was difficult to meet that goal, but every day for nine months I wrote something. It was such a positive exercise during a difficult time in my life. When I read those journals now, they lift my spirits."
Susan Kowalski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 50; college executive staff assistant; New York
"Form a phone tree. Then you only have to give an update to one person. Otherwise, the phone rings off the hook!"
Stephanie King; friend of two survivors; New York
Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinksy Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
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