If the tests show that you do have breast cancer, your case will be given to a specialist cancer doctor called an oncologist. You will probably also be referred to a surgeon. These doctors will discuss the treatment that is best for you. We will talk about treatment, and travelling, types of cancer, and other topics on other pages on this site. But first of all we want say that we understand that even if you are partly expecting it, being told that you do have breast cancer is a terrible shock.
Patient Information Kit – This kit includes up-to-date resources for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and their families. The kits are distributed by the Cancer Coordinator at Stanton Territorial Hospital. The beautiful kit bags are generously crafted by the Yellowknife quilters.
Most women say they feel a mixture of terror, anger and despair. They often think they are going to die. They ask “Why Me?” and “What did I do wrong?” They wonder how they can possibly tell their family and friends that they have cancer, and they worry what will happen to those closest to them.
Added to some or all of these things, you probably have to face travelling away from home for treatment, as well as the treatment itself. Then there is trying to understand what is happening to you, when people probably use many words you have never heard before, at a time when it is hard to take anything in.
At this point try and remember that more than 90% of women survive breast cancer for five years or longer. Many women are completely cured and others may live with cancer for years and still enjoy a good quality of life.
Willow Breast and Hereditary Cancer Support has some good information and advice on coping with a new diagnosis.
We also suggest that you try and keep in mind these things:
- Your feelings are completely normal in the circumstances. Allow yourself to feel them. Cry. Shout. Talk about how you feel. Be kind to yourself and take time to do the things that make you feel good like taking a walk outdoors, sewing, painting, yoga etc. See the experience of other northern women here and if you need someone to talk to check out our Services and Supports link.
- You will suddenly be faced with lots of decisions and information, at a time when it is hard to take in even the most simple things.
Some things to help you cope with this are:
- You are going to hear and read a lot of unfamiliar words connected with cancer and its treatment. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has a page here (called a ‘glossary’) that explains many of these.
- We hope that reading this website, and some of the links we give, will help to explain things. Leaflet, books and videos also have a lot of useful information. Reading or watching videos before your appointments may help you to think about what you want to ask the doctors in your particular case.
- We strongly advise that you keep a binder (or journal) that is a record of all your appointments and discussions with your health care team (including phone calls). Here you can make notes of what has been said and by who. You can also use this to record such things as side effects and how you are feeling, and questions you want to ask. In fact, you can write in it anything you want as well as use it to keep leaflets, reminders of appointment etc. We have binders specially designed for the breast cancer journey, so please email if you would like one.
- Take your binder to every appointment. You may see different doctors and you will be able to show one doctor what a previous doctor said.
- Make notes of questions you want to ask and take them with you to appointments. Do not be shy about looking at your notes and asking any questions.
- Take someone (known as an escort) with you to appointments, who can write things down (or record them) and ask questions for you. Click here for our page on escorts.
- Even people who speak good English struggle with medical language so if English is not your first language, consider seriously whether you need an interpreter. If you think you do, talk to your healthcare provider.
- Never be afraid to say that you don’t understand something and ask for something to be repeated, or explained again, until you do understand it.
- Almost everyone realizes after an appointment that there is something else they wanted to ask or didn’t understand. Or perhaps they think of more questions. At your appointments, ask for a phone number or email so that you can follow up on things you think of later or forgot or didn’t really understand.
The Action Group has produced a pamphlet and wallet card, “Cancer Patients Rights and Responsibilities – To Guide and Support my Cancer Journey.”