How to Survive Breast Cancer Treatment


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The best gift I got for Christmas was a famous chef’s secret recipe for crab cakes. Whenever I am in that part of the country I visit his restaurant and order crab cakes, and if he’s there, try every trick in the book to get him to share his recipe. Recently my friend Joan, who is a regular and has a lot more influence than I do, managed to get it for me.

The “secret” recipe was hand written on a small card and wrapped inside a dish towel with a run-of-the-mill crab cake recipe printed on the front. I was so excited you would have thought she had given me the secret to the universe or the cure for cancer. Funny how a small thing like a recipe can feel like such a big deal.

Joan’s gift made me want to give a gift to each of youthe gift of survivorship—a recipe that helped me get through breast cancer treatment. It includes ingredients even the best doctors sometimes fail to mention to their patients. Label this Brenda’s recipe for “How to Survive Breast Cancer Treatment.”

One heaping dose of faith
• Combine with a second opinion if desired.
• Look into getting BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic test. Add results to existing mix.
• Take written list of questions to every doctor’s appointment. Write/record all answers, or take someone who will do that for you. Keep asking until you understand. Allow to settle until more questions form. Repeat and repeat until treatment is over… and beyond.
• Fill all prescriptions with the same pharmacy. When ready to take medications, write down time taken and time next ones are due.
• Eat lightly after each chemo. Take anti-nausea meds even if not needed.
• Remove white flour, rice, pasta, sugar, soft drinks and alcohol. Replace with whole grains, fresh fruits, veges, 1000 IU Vitamin D and drink lots of water.
• Reduce fear and worry to manageable. Find a support group. Go often.
• Stop cutting cuticles, flossing teeth, brush teeth gently, and stay out of crowds until chemo is over. Add laxatives for 3 or 4 days immediately after each chemo. Add eye drops and moisturizer when needed. If skin or gums break, disinfect immediately.
• Check temperature often. If over 100.5 degrees, have problem breathing, frequency or burning when urinating, bleeding or bruising, call your doctor.
• Slather generously with paraben free sunblock, then sit in sun daily for 15 minutes.
• Add generous helping of sense of humor to chemo brain. Top with no energy.
• Listen to your “little voice.”
• Season liberally with meditation and/or hypnosis. Add a generous portion of daily exercise.
• Meanwhile, do not make major decisions until treatment is done.
• Give yourself enough time to recover, and do not overdo.
• Sprinkle with more faith and be grateful for the rest of your life.

Serve with love, courage, patience, determination and all God’s blessings.