Now more than ever, keeping your immune system strong is a necessity. For a breast cancer patient and during your treatments, this can be a very difficult task. How does breast cancer attack your immune system, how do treatments keep it weak, and what can you do to improve its strength and your quality of life?
Having cancer gives your life, and the lives you affect, a very unknown and sometimes scary feeling about what could or couldn't happen almost every day. Cancer treatments are changing every day, how your body responds to your treatments changes every day, and how you feel changes every day. The world today is starting to fill up with daily unknowns, uncertainties, and fear. What can happen, what could happen, and what is already happening is frightening. It is especially very frightening for people with compromised immune systems. Who has some of the most compromised immune systems? You do, my dear friend, as I am sure you have already been told many times before. Your body is already working against you as your cancer sets in, and then your immune system is completely compromised once you begin treatments. How unfair is that? In your daily battle, that is one of the most heartbreaking things we see every day.
But where is the science behind all of it? Cancer cells can sneak past your immune system and the white blood cells used to attack invaders in our bodies because they can look so similar to our normal healthy cells. It's almost like a game of hide and seek inside your body. Some cancer cells can even turn off part of your immune system once they attack, allowing the cancer cells to grow and multiply without being stopped. Cancer can also weaken your immune system if it travels and makes its way inside of your bone marrow. Inside your bone marrow is where your white blood cells are produced and cancer can shut down that production stripping your immune system of its power. But it's not just the disease itself that can lead to your immune system becoming weak, so can your treatments. These life-saving treatments that are needed to destroy the cancer cells can leave your body's immune system weak and not ready to fight. But they are still so important when it comes to saving your life.
Chemotherapy is the leading cause of damage to your immune system, but radiation and surgery can harm it as well. Chemotherapy is designed to kill rapid growth cells, which cancer is. But other rapidly growing cells are found in the most delicate parts of our body like in your bone marrow, blood, hair, and others. This will hurt the production of white blood cells, making your body more vulnerable to infection, sickness, and other issues.
During your cancer treatments and in the state of the world now, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible needs to become one of your top priorities. With that in mind, what can you do to keep yourself healthy and happy, while building up your immune system to whatever dangers are lurking out there? Follow these tips and suggestions to help you in your continued battle day in and day out!
You are fighting a battle inside your body and waging a war on the outside to keep yourself healthy and strong. Now more than ever it is so important to focus on keeping your immune system strong and to be as mindful as possible. It might be hard to not visit or see some of your family or friends to keep yourself healthy, avoiding public gatherings, and avoiding doing things you love doing. But, making these decisions could save your life and keep you healthy. Think smart and stay healthy, it will all be worth the trouble you are going through in the end.
It's so easy to get sucked into our cellphones. These handy and incredible objects that can connect us to the world and give us so much information in mere seconds can offer comfort, connection, fun, and a way to express ourselves. But does this stay true during your diagnosis, treatment, and afterward? Is there such a thing as too much screen time?
The unknown during diagnosis, treatment, and after can be one of the most painful parts of your journey. Finding the right kind of support and spending your time as you wish during your journey can be a battle in itself. Panic, fear, and doubt are a part of your everyday life, on top of trying to live your life as normally as you possibly can. Eliminating the negative things and people in your life during this time can be a very difficult decision to make. It can add another layer of worry and doubt to your life while trying to live and heal according to the societal norms around you. But what good are those negative people are things doing for you? Giving you extra stress, worry, hurting you, and possibly even making you angry? Why would you want someone like that in your life? The same thing applies to the cellphone that has casually become a permanent staple in your hand, back pocket, or bag.
We spend hours of our day scrolling mindlessly through our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts or on news sites, playing games, or surfing the web. We love posting about our families, the exciting things we're doing, looking up recipes, shopping on Amazon, and keeping up to date on the news. When going through treatment and afterward, social media and our connection to it can be a great form of comfort, reassurance, and an extension of learning more about what's happening in your body. There are so many inspiring Facebook pages and groups waiting to welcome you in with open arms, Instagram accounts that will keep you inspired, and brilliant websites to read and podcasts to listen to that will educate and comfort you on this journey. But what about everything else in between? How much time should you be spending on your phone, and when does it become a little too much? Is too much screen time a good thing or a band thing during your road to recovery or through treatment? This is an emerging topic that might cause a dispute or two. As you consider your path and choice of time spent on your phone, here are some things to consider and think about.
You may be following others on social media platforms that are going through a journey similar to yours. But, some of these people make it look easy, that it's not a huge challenge, and their pictures are inspiring or beautiful while doing it. Remember, what you post online is under your control. Filters are there to make everything look exactly how you want it to. You can control every aspect of your pictures and leave the imperfection and ugly behind. The days you get bad news, feel sick, don't look or feel like yourself, the messy house, the distraught or frustrated family members, might be left out of their posts. Even if they don't show these things, it's all still there, just like you. Seeing these cultivated and perfectly inspired posts over and over again can either keep you inspired or weigh heavily on you. Thoughts of doubt, comparison, and low self-esteem can become a daily part of your experience with social media. These posts can make you question why your life and journey doesn't look as easy or as inspiring as others, and make you question why it's not like that for you.
When comparison starts getting in the way, we suggest that it's time to put your phone down. Granted, these posts, these blogs, Facebook groups, and anywhere you can find a connection are there to serve a wonderful purpose. But when that purpose no longer applies to you or when it's making your journey more difficult or upsetting in any way, it might be time to reevaluate why this amount of screen time and what you're doing on your phone is important.
As in any decision you make while on your journey, make it for you. If you enjoy spending time on your phone, spend time on your phone! These are your decisions to make, so make them proudly. As you live through your diagnosis, treatment, and beyond, give yourself the joy and happiness you deserve in the best ways you can. We are here to give you the support you need, answer the questions you have, and guide you on the journey you want. Say yes to what to want, and allow yourself to say no to the things that are getting in the way of your life.
You're going through one of the most life-changing and traumatic experiences of your life. Your body is being attacked from the inside, and your outside is changing in new and sometimes scary ways. In these times of uncertainty, it's easy to let your self-esteem fall away. There are ways to keep up your spirit and self-esteem up, you just have to allow yourself the courage to care for yourself.
We are no strangers to seeing our patients and loved ones feeling defeated as they are working their way through cancer treatment, finding their footing after their treatments, and figuring out and finding their bodies again. Your self-esteem can be one of the first things that suffer during this difficult time and one of the last things that you're able to rebuild once you find your footing again. Negative experiences will automatically lower your self-esteem. It's easy to ask questions like, is there something wrong with me that made cancer pick me? Have I done something wrong? Did I make bad choices to make this happen to me? As we have talked about in so many of our other blogs, cancer chooses blindly. Just like in our previous blog, cancer doesn't see a beauty queen or someone fighting to prevent it. It just sees something to attack.
Pain, feeling sick, not having your normal amounts of energy, not being able to sleep or eat after or during treatments are all going to change the way you're living your life. You won't be able to do a lot of the things at the same time, as quickly, or as often as you used to during your treatment. That's okay. By no means should this change how you view yourself, how you impact others, and how you should be living your life. This will change your day to day, but it won't be changing who you are at the core. This whole experience may make you feel less feminine, less attractive, less sure of yourself and who you are now. But you are still all of these things. You are still beauty, feminine, grace, and a woman. This experience may change you and how you look, but all the parts of what makes you unique and what you fought for are still there. There is beauty in that, and you need to keep fighting for that.
When you get to this point in your journey of doubting yourself and you feel your self-esteem dropping, its time to start living a little differently. You might need to depend on more people than ever before, and asking for help. Losing your independence to help deal with everything is hard. You might think people are just seeing you as "the woman with breast cancer". But you are more than that. You are a woman who has breast cancer, yes. But it does not define you. This change might affect how you see your relationships, but in their eyes, they still see the person they love. It's common to feel anxious, sad, low and to have low self-esteem during this process. So don't beat yourself up for feeling these natural emotions. This can also cause you to pull away from your "normal" daily activities, seeing your friends, keeping up with your hobbies, and your work. But if you let the diagnosis win over the things you love in life, then what are you fighting for? Why would you let the diagnosis win and take away your time and quite possibly the only time you have left? You need to fight for you, for your self-esteem, and for the time you have before, during, and after treatment.
Getting out of bed and getting to your treatments and daily life activities is half the battle and will take a lot of energy to get through.
You've made it to this stage, and what now? Life and how you feel are still so much different. You've fought the battle, but what other invisible wounds do you need to patch up?
At the end of the day, keep remembering who you are, what makes you special, and celebrate that. There is nothing wrong with starting over, and there is nothing wrong with taking it at your speed. No one can make these choices for you, and no one defines your happiness. You've made the brave steps to be where you are today, be brave enough to celebrate today and every day you have.
One of the best things we can do as a support group is to tell your stories. You have so much to share with those walking and struggling along a similar path, and no story is stronger than one told by those who need to tell it.
Happy February friends, fellow survivors, and fellow fighters. This month is usually one that celebrates love with candy hearts, cards, and enough rom-com films to drive you crazy. Red, pink, and white everything cover every surface of every drug store, department store, and grocery store that you walk into. But we are no strangers to the color pink. It's not just a color of love and Hallmark Holidays. It's a color of strength, fortitude, determination, and power. It's the color of battle and the color of remembrance. Valentine's Day is just one day, but love is something that should be celebrated in all forms every day. Love is something that keeps us fighting and gives us a reason one way or the other to get up and out of bed and to keep moving. Leave the candy and the cards behind, and let love carry you through all day every day. Don't let one day get you down, let it buoy you in remembering that love and determination are always with you.
In celebration of that idea, we are so excited to open up a new chapter in our blogs. If you have been following us on Instagram and Facebook (which, if you haven't yet, you should!) then you are probably familiar with our posts dedicated to #SurvivorSunday, and asking you to share your survivor stories with us. These are your stories to tell, and no one can tell them better than you. Now that we have had some incredible individuals share their stories with us, we will be dedicating some of our blogs to these people and the stories they have to tell.
We are so very excited to share our very first survivor story with you, and this extraordinary woman might look very familiar. We are honored to share with you the story of Savanna James, who was recently crowned Miss Summerville and will be going on to compete in the Miss South Carolina Pageant later this summer. Her platform is "Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention." How incredible is that? Her story is unique. It is a story about being a high-risk survivor. We are so proud to share her story because she represents more than half of our patient population. We excited to have her as an advocate for awareness and early detection. We are also very thrilled to announce that she will be apart of our team this summer, and will be a part of several upcoming events. Please keep your eyes and calendars open for that.
Without further ado, we turn this blog over to Savanna James, so she can tell you her story.
"Being 24, I genuinely believed that my "adult" life was just getting started. I had moved to Charleston and started working as Vice President of East West Gem Co. I grew up acting and doing pageants, and even though I knew breast cancer was heavy in my family, I didn't think anything could affect me this early. Unfortunately, this reality was shattered at my yearly OBGYN appointment. I was referred to the Breast Place immediately. After meeting with Dr. Beatty, I was advised that it would be in my best interest to have a double mastectomy. The decision to move forward was not easy, especially at my age, but it is one I am very thankful that I was able to make. I have watched several family members suffer and ultimately pass away from breast cancer. I chose to compete for Miss Summerville, sharing my story, because there are so many people who are unaware that they might be living in the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that others will hear my story and seek help, feeling comforted in knowing that they have options. I do not feel like any less of a woman for going through with the procedure. I honestly feel empowered that I was able to make a strong choice, one that could ultimately save my life. As Miss Summerville, and as Savanna, I hope that others hear my story and are influenced to be proactive, get checked yearly and to do self-checks. At 24, I stand with the 1 in 8.
Dr. Beatty and The Breast Place fully supported Savanna’s decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. This decision is huge and personal. It should be thought out by each individual who may be facing it with education and research to understand the risks and benefits of undergoing a major surgery. A mastectomy can be life changing as it alters the appearance of the body you have known from birth and the decision to undergo one with or without reconstruction should not be taken lightly. Dr. Beatty encourages everyone in a similar position to research the pros and cons of surgery and understand that reconstructive surgery can be difficult but beautiful. Here at The Breast Place, we support our patients making decisions that are best for them as an individual as healthcare is not “one size fits all.
Breast cancer doesn't choose who it claims. A pageant queen, a mother, a doctor, a sister, a friend, it doesn't matter. What does matter is exactly what Savanna shares, and that is to be aware and stay on top of your health. Take control and take your yearly checkups and self check-ups seriously. At just 24, she made a powerful decision, that although scary, empowered her and gave her the power of taking a step in her battle against cancer. We hope that Savanna's story does give you hope to seek help and take comfort in the fact that there are always options available to you. We are very grateful that Savanna found comfort and help with us, and we hope that if you're looking for the same, you know that our doors are always open to you. Don't live in the "shadow of cancer", but come out into the sun.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Savanna. We are so excited to see where your journey takes you, and to continue working with you in the future. We would also love to hear YOUR stories and to share your experience to comfort and inspire others. If you would like to share, email us your story and a photo of yourself to email@example.com and you may be featured on our social media or in an upcoming blog post.
Remember, don't let Cupid's arrow get you down, and don't let it pop a hole in your sails. Love is something that we celebrate daily, and something we celebrate with you daily. Your journey is a daily struggle. It's hard, messy, scary, and frustrating. Remember that you have a place you are always welcome, and please know you are never alone.