Making life easier: 10 tips for breast cancer patients in treatment

October 23, 2015 | by Veronique De Turenne

From the moment of a breast cancer diagnosis, the emphasis is on treating the disease. But cancer support specialists say that by taking some surprisingly simple steps, patients can manage the physical and emotional side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

“When our patients come in, everything is so new and strange that they’re scared,” said Cassie Polchow, a cosmetologist at the Positive Image CenterSM, located in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope.

“Reality doesn’t set in until they get here and see the wig or the prosthetic, and then it hits them,” Polchow said. “We walk very gently with these patients, and fortunately we have not only a lot of love to give, but advice and methods for how to feel better.”

Her colleague Stella Sainz, also a cosmetologist at the Positive Image Center, agrees.

“We see a lot of women who don’t know what to expect after their surgery and treatment,” Sainz said. “We can help them through that; give them information and advice and it puts them at ease.”

The right garments help

1.  Many women don’t realize that, for some time after their surgery, they won’t be able to lift their arm. Wear lightweight shirts and tops with front closures, which are easy to slip on. Some postsurgical tops have special pockets to accommodate drains.  

2. A lightweight jacket or a soft shawl is good for both emotional comfort and warmth.

3. Invest in a high-quality, postsurgical bra. Good ones are made from a soft, gauze-like material and have Velcro front closures.

Exercise and nutrition matter

4. A balanced diet is key. Eating can be a battle, but fresh vegetables and fruits, plenty of protein and lots of water will help with fatigue.

5. Exercise – a gentle walk, a beginner’s yoga class or an art therapy class – can literally move you into a better frame of mind.

Don’t forget to nurture your spirit

6. Keep a journal. Turn it into anything you want – a diary of your journey, a wish list for the future, a letter to yourself.

7. Take time for you. Get a book on tape, Netflix on your phone, find a massage therapist who makes house calls and have a “Me Date.”

8. Meditate. Take a class, join a friend or grab a cushion and head for a park. It’s a deeply personal thing to do, with surprising benefits.

9. Help someone else. Join a support group and be a guide for those newer to the cancer journey. Or get away from cancer altogether and sign up for something easy and manageable – a half-hour per week of reading to an elderly person, or maybe tutoring a homeless child at the library. It’s amazing how good the act of giving feels.

10. Remember to go easy on yourself, and do the best you can. If you set up a wellness plan and don’t stick to it, understand that everyone has bad days, and there may be times when all you want to do is stay in bed. Listen to your body and nurture yourself.

Learn more about our unique patient experience, how to make an appointment or get a second opinion at City of Hope. You may also request a new patient appointment online or call 800-826-HOPE (4673) for more information.

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