Just a few notable breast cancer survivors include Suzanne Somers, Olivia Newton John, Sandra Day O’Connor, and even Richard Roundtree (the actor most famous for his role as Shaft). When Sandra Day O’Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1982, she underwent a mastectomy and returned to her position as a Supreme Court Justice just six days after the operation. She continued her work on the Court until her retirement in 2006. Justice O’Connor saw that her illness didn’t limit her abilities or ambitions–she simply continued to take care of herself and live her life to the fullest while living with the disease.
Some breast cancer survivors find it is difficult to return to their normal lives after treatment. Women who have had mastectomies might feel having a breast removed makes them less feminine, damaging their self-esteem. Some patients enter a period of depression, and can even become overly focused on wondering when the next cancer will develop (even though that may never happen). There are many organizations for breast cancer survivors that exist to help you take the next step in your life after recovery. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation gives breast cancer survivors the opportunity to participate in athletic events like walk/runs. The Komen Foundation also provides support groups for women and men to share their stories of struggle and survival and gives them the opportunity to inspire those who are currently undergoing treatments.
There are also many local organizations to help breast cancer survivors return to their normal lives. You can often find these organizations on the Internet, by consulting your area’s directory assistance, or by asking your doctor or local hospital for contact information. These meetings give you the chance to meet other women and men who have gone through some of the same experiences as you. Talking to someone who understands your perspective can be very emotionally healing. You might also learn more information and strategies from these groups to help you prevent relapses or discover other treatment options. Some might even have exercise groups and similar programs that will help increase your overall health.
You might also want to read books written by and for breast cancer survivors. A few helpful books include Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors; B.O.O.B.S.: A Bunch of Outrageous Breast-Cancer Survivors Tell Their Stories of Courage, Hope and Healing, and Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors. Husbands need support, too, and there are books for them as well. One of the most popular is Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) during Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond.
It is important for breast cancer survivors to understand they are not alone. There are a myriad of resources available to help you, or a breast cancer patient you know, heal emotionally as well as physically. Hope and emotional fortitude are perhaps the greatest weapons against breast cancer.