How to Get Through Breast Cancer Treatment (from Women Who’ve Been There)

Ice cream, chemo parties, and new friendships can make a major difference on your day to day.

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Chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer may come with unpleasant (or downright unbearable) side effects like fatigue, headaches, and pain, which can add significant stress and emotional burden of going through treatment.  One thing that helps is being prepared for whatever breast cancer treatment might throw at you, according to the patients HealthiNation interviewed.  Here’s how eight women got through treatment for breast cancer … and even managed to find positivity along the way.

Know your support system

“I had an incredible support system from my husband, from my parents, my families. All of my friends were so involved.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31

Keep a positive attitude

“You take the bad and you have to turn it into good.”
—Doris, diagnosed at 37, 47, and 54

Find ways to “make it suck less”

“We all know that cancer sucks, and then I feel like it’s up to us as patients to find ways to make it suck less. Whether that means making friends with the techs, or making friends with the women at the front desk, it’s ‘How can I make this seem somewhat fun?’”
—Christine, diagnosed at 42

Be willing to put yourself first

“You learn to put yourself first during treatment in a way that most of us don’t do throughout our lives because we’re always trying to accommodate other people, and be a good friend, and be nice, and be liked, or whatever it is. The way to get through cancer is to really focus on yourself, first and foremost, and what you need in that moment.”
—Sally, diagnosed at 40


Redefine what it means to have a “normal day”

“During treatment, you can’t have a normal day-to-day life. You’re gonna wake up in the morning, figure out how you feel, and then see if you can have ‘a regular day’ and do things you normally would, or if you have to have a day where you really have to just take care of yourself and just be sick for the day.”
—Alyssa, diagnosed at 23

Treat yourself

“Treat yourself through this process. Treat yourself after each chemo treatment. I would go out and have ice cream after each chemo.”
—Lisa, diagnosed at 46

Prioritize the things you love

“One thing that I found to be really helpful was to have things on my calendar to look forward to. For me, one of the most important things that I did was to basically arrange everything around my pole dancing class during chemo, so that meant I chose chemo on Wednesdays because I would feel as good as possible by Monday night.”
—Sally, diagnosed at 40

Get your friends to keep you company

“My husband set up a sign-up list for my friends to come to my chemo appointments. So it became, ‘Who’s getting bagels for the day? Who’s getting the drinks?’ It became a party—a chemo party. I think that is what made me stay strong throughout chemo. My very last day of chemo was about 35 people in the hospital. We took up an entire wing in the hospital and there was unlimited food, there was drinks; it was just such a nice way to end it. And then I got to ring a bell at the end to signify my last day of chemo and I had this huge crowd of people cheering for me and that was—that was awesome.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31

Find support from other patients

“I wish that I had had somebody sometimes just to be there to get through, but I found a lot of friends. They were from all over the world, sitting there with me going through radiation.”
—Leslie, diagnosed at 44

If you don’t have a support network, make one

“Go connect with your doctors and ask them to put you in touch with people. If you don’t know people or if you don’t have people—if you’re living somewhere where you’re not connected with your family—your doctor can put you in touch with women who have gone through this, and put together your own support network.”
—Lisa, diagnosed at 46

Recognize your own strength

“Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘A woman is like a teabag. You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.’ That definitely applies to me. I never thought of myself as a very strong person, and after being diagnosed with breast cancer and going through treatment, I found out that I was much stronger than I ever thought I was.”
—Jamie, diagnosed at 45

A very special thanks to Susan G. Komen Greater New York City.