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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Newly Diagnosed With Breast Cancer: Day To Day Living


Day-to-day living from our point of view is a catch-all for those parts of your life affected by your breast cancer diagnosis that are not treated in specific subjects such as Managing Your Medical Care.  As you will see, what happens day to day can affect your emotional and physical well being..

Think ahead of time about disclosing your health condition.
  • Thanks to public figures such as Betty Ford, breast cancer is now publicly talked about. However, the decision whether to tell people (and, if so, what to tell them) is purely a personal one. There is no right and wrong. That said, we encourage telling unless there is an overriding reason not to. Keeping a secret is stressful. The greater the secret, the greater the stress. Stress hurts the immune system. The immune system is needed to help your body function at its best disease fighting capacity.
  • Think about what you want to do before moving forward. Once you tell someone, you can't take it back. As they say: "The cat's out of the bag."
  • As a general matter, whether to tell people about your breast cancer, when to tell them, and what to tell, depends on the situation and why you are thinking of disclosing the information.
  • There are three situations which give rise to this question. What you decide to do may vary in each situation. In each situation, consider: the pros and cons of telling, what to tell, and how to prepare for unexpected reactions. For more information about each situation, click on the link.
  • Before telling the first loved one, it may be useful to call a hotline and rehearse by sayng the words "I have breast cancer." Your response to saying the words for the first time may surprise you.
  • Perhaps the first person to tell is the person close to you who you most expect to respond in a helpful way. Keep in mind that you can always tell other people as the situation clarifies and you learn more about your condition and make a treatment decision.
  • If you have young children, keep in mind that all the literature suggests telling children who live with you in an age appropriate manner. They'll know something is wrong. If you don't tell them what is happening, they will assume that it is their fault. It is recommended that you use the word "cancer."  If you don't use the word, and they hear it from someone else, they may lose trust in you.  Start monitoring their behavior. For tips about helping children cope, click here.
  • Tell your insurance broker, lawyer, accountant and other non-medical professionals in your life about your diagnosis. They may have suggestions about how it affects specific situations you face and how to best deal with them. 
  • N

    OTE: An easy way to keep family and friends up-to-date about what you learn about your breast cancer and how you are doing is via the internet. For instance, American Cancer Society has a free "Circle of Sharing." For additional sources for keeping people to date, click here.

Consider family and friends as part of your health care team.
  • Your Team
    • It helps to think about the appropriate people around you as part of your team, just as doctors and other professionals are part of your team. Each member can provide his or her knowledge, advice and support.
    • Who is actually involved with you and your health care, and to what degree, is up to you. You don't have to accept help just because it is offered.
    • Likewise, you can set limits on peoples' participation in your experience. For example, only spend time with people who are positive and supportive.
    • Expect that people will let you know when they hear stories about other people with your type of cancer or who have undergone the treatment you decide to take. This information can be overwhelming and not helpful. Feel free to let people know what you do or do not want them to pass on to you. Check any information you do learn with your doctor.
    • Don't be surprised if some people tend to stay away from you because they don't know what to say or do. Some people may have the irrational notion that cancer is catching. Other people may not want to face thoughts about their own mortality.
  • Ask For The Help That You Need
    • Do not wait to ask for help until the burden gets too great or you reach a breaking point. You don't need to be  Wonder Woman and try to deal with everything you did before your diagnosis as well as everything that comes along with a diagnosis. There will be times when you will need help either doing everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, child care, or matters directly related to your health such as bathing, accompanying you to doctor appointments or acting as a patient advocate if you enter a hospital.
    • Make a list of your chores and responsibilities that you may not be able to handle once treatment starts. Divide them up among your team.
    • Consider appointing a family member or friend to be an Organizer to coordinate family and friends for you. It takes away the burden of doing it yourself. It also helps assure that things don't fall through the cracks. An organizer is also helpful to your other team members because they can more easily say "no" when they have to without fear of offending you.
    • Entering into a caregiver contract with a family member or friend can help you qualify for Medicaid (Medi-cal in California) if you have too many assets. Such a contract is a legal way of reducing your assets. 
  • Ask Someone To Go With You To Important Medical Meetings
    • It is helpful to have a family member or friend attend all important meetings with doctors (a "Patient Advocate.") Until treatment starts, that is basically every meeting. Such a person can help in a batch of ways, including helping ask questions, help you to recall what was said, and to help relieve anxiety.
    • It is also recommended that you take a recording device to each session so you can listen more closely afterward (your smart phone probably has recording ability. If not, recorders are inexpensive.)  You will learn about tips like this in our article about maximizing your limited time with a doctor.
  • Think About Their Needs As Well As Your Own
    • A diagnosis affects everyone around you. It is even said that a diagnosis of breast cancer is a diagnosis of the entire family.
    • Your needs come first, but theirs should not be ignored.
    • Just as you need to share your emotions, they should keep talking with one another. Talking keeps mole hill size difficulties from erupting in to mountain size problems.
    • If you are part of a same sex couple, and your partner cannot tell his or her boss or coworkers about your health situation, your partner will feel more alone and isolated than if your health could be talked about. Your partner will likely not be offered the kind of flexibility that benefits many spouses. Talking about the tension will help. (Perhaps your partner can find support and find tips by talking with someone else who has experienced a similar situation)
  • Relax Family Rules To Fit The Situation
    • For example:
      • Meals could be eaten on paper plates with throw away plastic utensils. 
      • Chores that don't need to be done right away can be postponed.
Learn to be an informed medications consumer.  
  • For instance, learn about minimizing your out of pocket costs,tips for sticking with drug regimens where to store medications (not in the bathroom) and how to dispose of unused medications.
  • Free drugs may be available.
  • For information, click here
Do what you can to avoid unnecessary infections.
  • Infections can affect treatment and/or your health. Simple precautions can help avoid unnecessary infections - in daily life, at work, when you travel and even at the gym. 
  • The steps to take to avoid infection are easy. However, they just require paying attention.
  • For information, click here.
Watch for emotions and side effects
  • Let your doctor know if you are in pain. Some people think pain is part of breast cancer - but it doesn't have to be. Keep in mind that there are many treatments for pain including traditional medicine, massage therapy, meditation, and other so-called complementary treatments.If pain is not treated to your satisfaction, seek the advice of a doctor who specializes in treating pain. For more information about pain and how to deal with it, click here.
  • If there is a possibility you will lose your hair, consider buying a wig now or at least saving a hair sample in case you want to buy a wig later. Also consider cutting your hair off rather than waiting for it to fall out. For additional information, see WigsHair loss
  • Learn how to deal with emotions, fatigue and other side effects if and when they appear. For information see: Side Effects And How To Manage Them, Fatigue, Newly Diagnosed With Breast Cancer: Emotions

If you have underage children

  • Tell Your Children: 
    • All the literature suggests telling children who live with you in an age appropriate manner. They'll know something is wrong. If you don't tell them what is happening, they will assume that it is their fault. 
    • Tell each child in a manner that is appropriate for his or her age and personality. Use drawings or dolls if that would be helpful.
    • It is recommended that you use the word "cancer."  If you don't use the word, and they hear it from someone else, they may lose trust in you.  
    • For information about telling children in an age appropriate manner, click here.  
    • Start monitoring their behavior. 
  • Keep A Routine
    • Be sure children have a routine, and that they feel cared for.
  • Monitor Your Children's Behavior
    • It is likely that their reaction will show up in behavior instead of words or tears. For tips about helping children cope with common reactions, click here.
  • If Your Children Are In School
    • Make your child's school aware of what is going on.
    • Ask to be contacted if your child's schoolwork begins to suffer or if there is a change in the child's behavior. 
  • Arrange For Their Care
    • It is never too soon to start arranging for a child's temporary care during your treatment. It also prudent to make arrangements in case you become unable to care for the child on a long term basis, or if you die. We are not talking specifically about your diagnosis. Life is fragile and there is no certainty for any of us. For information about how to arrange for emergency medical care if you are not on hand, click here.
Learn about local resources
  • There are many local resources throughout the country to help people with cancer in general, and breast cancer in particular.
  • Ask your cancer doctor’s team, the social worker at the local hospital, and other women in the area who have had breast cancer.
  • Also check the American Cancer Society’s list of resources by calling 800.ACS.2345.

Once a treatment decision is made, prepare for your upcoming needs

  • Your daily life will be affected because of your treatment. You may feel sick or tired. 
    • Your doctor can let you know what to anticipate.
    • It may also be helpful to speak with a woman who has gone through the treatment you have agreed to. Your doctor, his or her staff, a social worker, treatment center or a disease specific can help you make contact.
  • Ask your doctor, your doctor's staff, or treatment center about help with transportation to and from treatment. American Cancer Society has volunteers to help. Call 800. ACS.2345.
  • Learn how to maximize your limited time with a doctor.
  • Start lining up family and friends to take over the household chores and other functions you may not be able to do. 
    • If it turns out you can do them, you can thank people for their consideration.
    • Free house cleaning may be available during treatment through a non-profit known as Cleaning For A Reason. If you may need a cleaning service, start the process now. It takes about 2 weeks to process an application, and only a limited number of applications are accepted per day. See: offsite link
  • Think about who will take care of your children while you are in treatment and during any recovery period(s). 
  • Be sure there is someone to pay bills in case you don't feel well enough to attend to them. This is not the time for your health insurance to be cancelled for lack of payment, or for your mortgage to go into default or to be behind in your rent if you can avoid it. (If no family members or friends are available, you can hire a professional). For information about finances, see: Finances. (If you expect to feel a financial crunch, see: How To Cope With A Financial Crunch Or Crisis).

Start adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Drugs and treatments do not work in a vacuum.

  • Start to think of the food you eat, the exercise you get, your rest/sleep, and even proper care of your mouth as steps you can take to make treatments and drugs most effective. In fact, it may even help to think of these activities as part of your treatment. For information, about a cancer prevention diet and lifestyle, click here. Also see: Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Oral Care
  • Learn how to avoid unnecessary stress. Also learn how to deal with stress
  • Do not expect to change everything overnight. Change takes time. Start in one area at a time.
  • If you need help figuring out the best nutrition and exercise for you, speak with your doctor. If he or she doesn't have the answer, you will be directed to a nutritionist or dietitian who does.
Check travel plans with your cancer doctor
  • Check with your cancer doctor before you travel. Check timing, destination, how you will travel, activities at your destination, and what to do if you experience an emergency.
  • It takes time to plan a trip properly with a health condition, especially if you have special needs. The planning is worth it.
  • Once at your destination, take appropriate precautions. For instance, check to be sure that the water is safe to drink and not likely to cause infection.
  • For information, see: Travel With A Serious Illness
You can still have sex and sexuality
  • You will still be able to have a sexual side to your life - even if you lose a breast and decide not to have it reconstructed.
  • For information, see: Sex and Intimacy

For additional informaton, see:

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