No One Need Be An Island During Breast Cancer


I don’t know whether or not you remember the Joan Baez song titled “No Man Is An Island” but the first four lines of the lyrics are:

“No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man's joy is joy to me,
Each man's grief is my own.”

The first two lines are what come to mind whenever I think about a person who is dealing with breast cancer. And the third and fourth lines apply to those who want to be there to help a cancer patient with whatever is needed.

Let’s talk about the patient first. Of course, there are always those who believe that they can do anything by themselves. Sometimes this is a form of denial. As long as the person believes he or she can get through tests and procedures without help, how serious can the medical condition be? Another reason for wanting to do everything without help is to maintain control and personal independence. Still others have a hard time asking for help.

But breast cancer is a whole new experience, which usually requires the help and support of others sometime during cancer treatment. I know because I was one of those who thought I could do it all on my own and found out otherwise.

I figured I could go to doctor appointments by myself and undergo any testing by myself. I didn’t need anyone else unless they were able to take my tests for me. I was smart enough to listen to the doctor and take away whatever information and/or instructions provided to me.

So what was the big deal? After all, I could go to work and head off to my appointment and then head back to the office and barely miss a beat. This worked really well for me the first time. I didn’t need anyone until the day that I was having my lumpectomy since I would have general anesthesia and couldn’t drive myself home.

The first time that made me pause and think a bit was when I was diagnosed with cancer the second time. All went relatively the same until the needle biopsy. The first time, the cancer surgeon was able to do it quickly because of the larger size and the location of the tumor being near the surface. But the second time, there were two small tumors located in the center of the breast and the biopsy would have to be done with ultrasound to locate the tumors and take the samples. That day I drove to work and asked a friend to take me to and pick me up from the appointment. I glad that I did. It took me awhile to recover from the procedure in order to be able to drive home from the office.That’s when I learned my lesson and understood that there would be times that I would need help and that was alright to ask and receive help. I learned that most people want to help when someone has cancer, and appreciate being asked rather than trying to think of how to be of help.

Being on the other side where you are watching your loved one deal with cancer and doing everything that you can to help is nothing short of what I believe to be one of the hardest things a person will ever have to face.

You want to make things better for the patient. You want to take away the pain.  You want to do anything you can to help. You are frustrated beyond belief when there is absolutely nothing that you can do to relieve the physical and mental stress that the person is experiencing.

Your loved one understands and is grateful for all that you are doing to be supportive. There is absolutely no way to express the depth of gratitude that a patient feels about your help, care and love at a time when they are so vulnerable, in pain and frightened. No matter the long-term outcome for the patient, she/he would want you to know that you are appreciated so much more than you will ever know.

Edited by: Jean Campbell

Continue Reading