Breast cancer is a complex disease that’s different for every woman. Before you start a treatment, your doctor will want to know the size of the tumor and how far it has spread in your body, called the stage of the cancer. There are five basic stages, 0 through IV, and a number of sub-stages.
Staging is a way for doctors to describe your condition. It doesn't tell the whole story, though. Your doctor will think about many things before she recommends treatments for you, including:
Write your questions down so you don’t forget them. If it’s OK with your loved one, you can go with her to an appointment and ask the doctor about them. You may want to let other people know what you’re going to ask before you go.
Be prepared for changes in your loved one's behavior and mood. Medications, side effects from treatment, and stress may make her feel depressed, angry, or tired.
Encourage her to be active and to do as much for herself as possible. It will help her feel a sense of control.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Be sure you get enough sleep, eat well, and take some time off for yourself. If you stay well, it will be easier to help your loved one.
Ask other family members and friends to pitch in, too. They can bring meals, take the dog for a walk, or offer rides to doctor’s appointments. Most people will appreciate the chance to help.
A loved one’s illness can be stressful for you, too. To keep your worries from taking over:
Try to keep a positive attitude.
Accept that there are events you cannot control.
Find some activities that help you relax. Take a walk, listen to music, or practice meditation or yoga.
Exercise regularly. It’s a great way to fight tension, and it can help your body be better prepared to deal with stress.
Rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events. Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
Think about joining a support group for family and friends of people with breast cancer. It might help to talk about what you’re going through with other people who understand what it’s like.