When you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, it is hard to resist the urge to compare your situation to that of others, especially those within your own family. Suddenly you hear stories or learn about other people’s cancer experiences and begin to compare yours to theirs. It’s kind of like when women get together and start sharing their labor and childbirth stories. It almost seems as if each one is trying to “top” the others.
When you get a breast cancer diagnosis, resist the urge to compare yourself to others. This might seem incredibly obvious, but it is one of those things that is more easily said than done. Every woman is unique. Every cancer diagnosis is also unique. No woman copes with the news of a diagnosis exactly like anyone else. You and your situation are unlike anyone else’s. Most importantly, every woman’s treatment path can and should be uniquely tailored to her individual situation. Thankfully, this is one area the medical community has made tremendous strides in recently. They really do attempt to individualize each woman’s diagnosis and treatment course and avoid neatly compartmentalizing similar cases. This was not always the case.
Despite being fully aware of the uniqueness of my own cancer journey, sometimes I still find it necessary to remind myself of this obvious fact. My mother had breast cancer, but even as mother and daughter our cancer similarity stops there. She was 74 when initially diagnosed, I was twenty years younger. Her lump was in her right breast, mine was in the left. She had a lumpectomy, I had a bilateral mastectomy. I am undergoing chemotherapy, she did not until her recurrence.
After the shock of your diagnosis wears off, take charge. Ultimately, you are in control of the direction your own unique cancer journey will take. It might not always seem like it, especially at first, but it’s true.
Your cancer journey is yours alone. You do not have to feel or behave in a certain way.
I find comfort, power and strength believing in that simple truth.