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Living with Breast Cancer – Dealing with diagnosis and treatment

Living with Breast Cancer – Dealing with diagnosis and treatment

More women will be diagnosed with breast cancer than any other form of cancer, almost 250,000 women in the US alone will be diagnosed. However, as frightening as this statistic is, you should realise more people are surviving breast cancer than ever before with the 5-year survival rate now at 99%. Whereas this is not a threat which cannot be ignored, cancer is something which, when caught early ,can be fought and beaten.

Recognising the signs of breast cancer

On the 27th of May 2013, Vanessa felt a change in her breast tissue, she was regularly checking herself as she had a family history of cancer, but nothing changes the feeling you get when you find a lump in your breast. She immediately knew that something was wrong, that this was not just a cyst and so when to visit her doctor. Days before she had been hit in the chest by accident as someone walked into her, what she thought was a bruise from a clumsy encounter was  something more sinister.

She was immediately referred to hospital, where there was a thirteen day wait which felt like a lifetime, an emotional roller-coaster wanting the appointment to come sooner but dreading it simultaneously. Finally, standing outside the hospital with a feeling it had to be cancer, in the waiting room there were a number of older women, everyone assured her that she would be too young to have breast cancer, sadly, this was not the case.

Initially the consultant said it was just a bruise, but just as he finished the ultrasound scan he told her the news that it was malignant, his exact words “I’m afraid to say, you have a little cancer”. Vanessa asked the nurse to hold her hand, a human touch to help her cope with the impact of the news.

“It is the feeling that, despite the fact it is you who have cancer, you have to be strong for those around you as well as yourself. It is hard to watch people around you dealing with emotional distress.”

Looking at the x-rays and being able to see the thing which was growing within her was sobering.

“My first question was, ‘am I going to die?’ I was ready for whatever the answer was.”

It was a feeling that cancer was no longer something ‘out there’ which happened to other people. “Why me?” was soon replaced by “Why not me?”, she felt that the lack of control over what was happening was difficult to cope with.

Know yourself and check regularly

Vanessa went through treatment and is now in remission, however her message to any woman is how important regular checks of your breasts are. There are many signs, from lumps or bumps to fluid or heat. There are many great sites to advise you such as knowyourlemons.com.

Vanessa’s one wish is that she could encourage more women to carry out checks regularly, to make it a habit to check themselves monthly. Carry out a check on the first of the month, put it in your diary, make it part of your foreplay with your partner – “do whatever it needs, just make sure you do check”.

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Potential side effects of cancer treatment

Vanessa was one of the 99% – she had pretty aggressive treatment but is now in remission. It was only after treatment that she discovered she had contracted an often unspoken side effect: lymphedema.

Lymphedema can be brought on by breast cancer treatments such as surgery or radiation treatment. Lymph is the clear fluid which circulates throughout our bodies, it is vital to remove waste substances and bacteria from tissue. An Edema is a build-up of excess fluid and can occur almost immediately or even years after treatment.

The build up often occurs because the cancer treatment will often involve the removal of a number of the lymph nodes around the chest or under the arm. Even if the nodes are not removed, they can be damaged by the treatment causing the lymph to build up in the tissue, causing a range of symptoms, including:

  • Aching or discomfort in the arm or chest
  • Tingling or increased warmth in the limb
  • Tightness or a reduction in flexibility in the joints such as the elbow or wrist
  • Your bra fitting may have change, it may feel tighter or not fit in the same way

Managing lymphedema

Lymphedema is sadly a condition which cannot be cured, however the swelling of limbs and pain levels can be controlled. One of the most effective treatments is the use of compression garments such as a bra or sleeve. They put pressure on tissues to stop fluid build-up and encourage the lymph fluid to drain, limiting the amount of fluid which builds up in the limb.

Compression garments reduce the excessive flow of fluid from the bloodstream into the tissues and encourages the fluid within the limb to move into the body where it can drain away. Additionally, the massaging effect of the garment helps soften the hard tissue which can form as part of the lymphedema.

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Compression Bra

    An example of a compression garment – this bra is designed to provide a level of compression and support which would not be found in a normal bra.

    A compression garment fitted by a specialist will give the best therapeutic effect, starting with a few hours wear per day, you gradually increase the time worn until you can wear it for most of the day. It should be especially worn during exercise to gain the maximum effect as it will give resistance for your muscles to work against, improving the lymphatic flow.

    Wear it with style!

    Of course, just because you have to wear a medical garment it doesn’t mean you can’t still be stylish! There are a number of fun and colourful sleeves which you can wear over your bandages or sleeves because treatment doesn’t have to mean you have to stop being sassy!

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     An example of a slip-on cover for a compression garment

      An example of a slip-on cover for a compression garment

      Cancer changes you

      You could not go through something like cancer without it changing you. Vanessa’s outlook on life changed, but it was not in a negative direction. She lives for the day and is now doing things she would not have thought possible before and is now studying a university course in screenwriting.

      Check regularly, if you find something act promptly but be aware it is not the end of the world and, with support you are not alone!-

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      Last Updated on November 18, 2020

      50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

      50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

      If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

      That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

      Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

      1. Believe It to See It

      Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

      2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

      While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

      3. Keep Looking for Solutions

      Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

      4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

      Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

      5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

      There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

      6. Always Ask Productive Questions

      It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

      7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

      Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

      8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

      Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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      9. Maximize Your Strengths

      Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

      10. Be in It to Win It

      Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

      11. Know That Success Attracts Success

      People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

      12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

      Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

      13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

      You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

      14. Be a One-Off Original

      Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

      15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

      Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

      16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

      Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

      17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

      Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

      18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

      We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

      19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

      Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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      20. Accept Challenge All the Time

      Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

      21. Make Your Own Luck

      In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

      22. Ignite Your Initiative

      While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

      23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

      Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

      24. Champion in Communication

      Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

      25. Plan Your Life Strategically

      Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

      26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

      To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

      27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

      While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

      28. Live by Core Values

      Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

      29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

      Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

      30. Don’t Get Carried Away

      Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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      31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

      Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

      32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

      Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

      33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

      Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

      34. Change Opens New Doors

      People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

      35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

      It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

      36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

      Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

      37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

      When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

      38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

      How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

      39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

      If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

      40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

      Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

      41. Swim Against the Tide

      Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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      42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

      More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

      43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

      Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

      44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

      While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

      45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

      Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

      Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

      47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

      While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

      48. Follow Through

      Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

      49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

      We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

      50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

      To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

      So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

      Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

      More About Success

      Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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