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Navigating the Pink Path

It's autumn here in New England. The leaves are changing color and corn mazes are being advertised. There is an appeal about getting lost in in the labyrinth of husks and stalks for a short while, after all it is a controlled environment, plenty of people around, knowing that there is a way out, etc.


I imagine that being told "you have breast cancer," feels an awful lot like being plopped right smack dab in the middle of a corn maze, but with the sense of alone and perhaps in the dark. Sure, there might be a recall a bit about how you got there, vaguely; but all in all it's more like the corn maze in a horror film in which you are the protagonist rather than a fun autumnal activity.


We have adopted breast cancer awareness month as an autumnal tradition as well. We talk about statistics and early detection, we share stories of resilience, women who battled breast cancer and survived and we celebrate lives of those who are thriving as well as those who we have lost. Seldom do we talk about how the minutes last for hours when you are receiving life altering news from a doctor you have have only just met once or twice.


Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is not a medical emergency for most people, but it can mentally feel like it. With early detection improvements in medical technologies we're catching breast cancer before it becomes an emergent condition. Most people want to eradicate the "C" word from their bodies yesterday, but generally there is time for you to take a moment and breathe. It is easy to become emotionally distracted and then make reactionary decisions about your care. Just breathe.


We have been programed by October to believe that there is a battle, a war to be fought on breast cancer, and having just been enlisted as a "warrior" you must rally and fight with all your might! You're not wrong, we are fighting, in 1971 President Nixon declared a war on cancer and signed The National Cancer Act. But it wasn't to rally you specifically - it was to gain funding, education and bolster research to help with cancer prevention and cure.


Before you make any decisions, listen to the recommendations of your doctor(s), ask for an alternative option, ask about doing nothing. Get a second opinion. Get a third opinion if you want. Remember that you are (or your insurance is) paying for your doctors' time and that you get to choose what treatment plan is best for you and who the participants in your care will be.


Talk with your friends and family, join a support group. Unfortunately with breast cancer being so wide reaching there are tons of other individuals who have had to make similar choices about care and treatment, they too had once found themselves in the middle of an unknown maze.


If you have just been plopped down in the middle of your metaphorical corn maze or even if it's more like a corn field, just take a moment, come back into your body, out of your head and just breathe. You have time, you have options, you don't have to navigate through it alone. Many cancer centers have cancer navigators specifically to help you on the pink path. Ask for them, ask us - we're here and we're rooting for you!

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