This week, I feature another inspiring story of a breast cancer survivor Domini Stuart. Domini is from Australia and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000; her treatment included a double mastectomy, radiotherapy and two courses of chemotherapy followed by Tamoxifen and Arimidex. A freelance journalist and speaker, she has also written a number of books to help people stay well by building physical and emotional resilience.
Thanks for your helpful hints Domini and I’ve really enjoyed reading your book You can get through this!
Helpful Hints from Domini
Domini has written on two topics for Breast Cancer Nirvana: i) what she would say to someone going through breast cancer and ii) 3 quick tips on getting through breast cancer.
What I would say to someone going through breast cancer
Breast cancer is not your fault!
No-one knows what causes breast cancer. We know that certain faulty genes increase the risk of getting breast cancer, but not everyone who carries the fault will get the disease. Nor will every woman who had her first child after she was thirty, every woman who is stressed, keeps her emotions bottled up, drinks more than eight standard alcoholic drinks a week or has a poor diet.
All of these factors and many more besides may influence the development of breast cancer. With the right research, someone could probably present convincing evidence suggesting that women who listened to the Beatles are more likely to develop breast cancer.
Breast cancer is not a price you have to pay. In my case, it could have developed because I have, at various times of my life, drunk far too much, smoked like a chimney and lived on chocolate. It could have been because I had all four of my children in my thirties, or because I was nurturing some deep and unrecognised resentment. It could have been all or none of these things. It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing I can do to change my past. What matters is what I do now to manage my future.
People who don’t have cancer may take comfort in believing that they’re different from people who do. One way of protecting themselves is to imagine that you have a ‘cancer personality’ – in other words, a personality that is totally different from their own.
You may have read descriptions of the cancer-prone person and you may even think it sounds a bit like you. But, unless you are you prepared to believe that every woman everywhere in the world who gets breast cancer has a personality identical to your own, you have to let go of the idea that you brought cancer on yourself by having the ‘wrong’ one.
Unless you took yourself into a laboratory and injected your breast with vast amounts of proven, tumour-inducing substances, there is no possible reason for you to feel responsible for your breast cancer.
Three quick tips for getting through breast cancer
- Don’t feel compelled to do vast amounts of research. Many books and websites advocate gathering as much information as possible when you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Some women find this approach enormously reassuring – but not all. If you have faith in the people who will be taking care of you, there’s no need to feel embarrassed if you’d rather just accept their opinion.
- Beware the Internet! There’s certainly a lot of useful, practical and reassuring information out there, particularly at the world’s official Cancer Council and leading breast cancer charity sites. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot that you’re better off without, particularly any that are trying to persuade you to spend thousands of dollars on a miracle ‘cure’ by presenting page after page of ‘genuine’ medical disasters.
- Don’t take the news at face value. When you’re being treated for breast cancer, it’s only natural that mention of any kind of cancer in the news will grab your attention. The problem is that, while most media reports are not untruthful, they can present a picture which is misleading enough to cause unnecessary fear and confusion. If you do read something that you think might be relevant to you, talk it through with your doctor.
Adapted from ‘You can get through this – how to stay positive when you’re coping with breast cancer’ by Domini Stuart available from http://www.doministuart.com/.