October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One of the greatest challenges for those who have been newly diagnosed is finding sources of support. Patients are eager for information on everything from enduring surgery and chemotherapy to how to deal with hair loss.
While there are many local resources and support groups available in Waltham and surrounding areas, women can also find comfort in a sisterhood of survivors who have already been in their shoes.
Best selling author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Delinsky has gathered the wisdom of hundreds of breast cancer survivors who are eager to inspire those who are new to the “breast cancer sisterhood.” She shares all of the stories and tidbits she found in her book " Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors. "
First published in 2001, the book was updated for a 10th anniversary edition published last year. Delinsky donates all the profits from the book to fund a research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Delinsky describes "Uplift" as a “comprehensive support group in a book form.”
“It is a handbook of practical tips and upbeat anecdotes that I compiled with the help of more than 400 breast cancer survivors, their families and friends. They gave me the book that I wish I’d had way back when I was diagnosed.”
Not everyone knows what to say when a friend or family member reveals a breast cancer diagnoses. Some of the women in "Uplift" shared that when people don’t know what to say, they say nothing at all, which Delinsky says is the worst possible choice.
“A note, an email, a voicemail simply saying 'I’m thinking of you' is the kindest thing in the world.”
When Delinsky was looking for answers to questions, she found “nurses more informative when it came to answering mundane questions that weren’t mundane to me at all.”
Delinsky says look to your local hospital, faith organizations and even your workplace as potential sources of support.
“One of the comments I got over and over again from contributors to 'Uplift' was that after they were diagnosed, women came out of the woodwork to say that they’d been there, that they understood, that they wanted to help.”
Delinsky says that she believes her life is better for having had breast cancer.
"I cherish my husband and kids more than ever. I view my grandchildren as a gift. And my career is frosting on the cake! So many of my 'Uplifters' [women she quotes in her book] have taken breast cancer as a wake-up call to appreciate their lives all the more, even dared to go back to school or do something entirely different with their lives.”
Those who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer also should be “uplifted” by the large sisterhood of survivors that have lived to share their wisdom, says Delinsky.
“Women are surviving breast cancer in numbers that were unheard of a generation ago. We’re being diagnosed earlier and being treated more effectively. More than 2.5 million women have had breast cancer and are now alive and well. Much of this is the result of mammography. Any woman who fears the 'pain' of mammography should know that five seconds of discomfort can lead to years and years of a longer life.”
TELL US: Do you have an experience with breast cancer that you would like to share? Honor the sisterhood of survivors in our town by uploading a photo to the gallery above or sharing your story in the comment section below.