7 things to know once your breast cancer treatment is scheduled


If you were like me, your cancer diagnosis was the scariest moment of your life. The thought of treatment is equally scary. I’ve felt a little lost the past few weeks, thinking (and being asked this frequently by my loved ones), “what’s next”? I finally made a decision to opt for lumpectomy with breast radiation therapy rather than a full mastectomy. Figuring out this decision on my breast cancer surgery and finally getting on the schedule has surprisingly eased my mind because I’m a big planner – lists, upon calendars, upon more lists in my life. But once treatment is scheduled, I have time to prepare myself and ask questions. Here are some things I’ve found that will hopefully help make this situation a little less terrifying:

There is support out there.

When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer and begin your treatment, it can be hard to know where to turn for support. There are many organizations that can help you:

  • Your family and friends will likely be there for you when things get tough. They may be willing to help out around the house or take care of other responsibilities so that all of your energy can go toward getting better.
  • The community at large also offers many opportunities for cancer survivors (and their loved ones). For example, some communities have support groups specifically geared toward those who have been through similar experiences; these groups provide a safe space where people feel comfortable sharing their stories and asking questions without judgement or pressure from others in attendance.
  • Also, don’t forget about your breast cancer care team where you are receiving your surgery and treatment. They have the answers to any medical questions you may have and are there to be your support team as well. Again, being a planner, I just got a cancer planner and journal that is both for me and my caregivers that I’m currently filling out – it has stickers included too! This is for my appointments, medication and symptom tracking, and a place to collect questions and answers for my cancer care team.

Make the most of your time with family and friends.

Once your treatment has been scheduled and you (hopefully have some time on your hands, make the most of it. You may have a lot of things to take care of before starting treatment–such as packing up your home or getting projects finished/handed off at the office but don’t forget to spend some quality time with family and friends who will be around during this difficult time.

If possible, try to get away from everything for a few days so that you can relax and focus on yourself. Make a list of things you want to do while receiving treatment: go hiking in the mountains; take up painting classes; learn something new: I just got a subscription to Masterclass from my company for my professional development and will be watching tons of that; also, ask around for binge-worthy things for your watch list.

You might also want to plan something special with someone you care about—like planning a romantic getaway together! My surgery is a month away so we’re discussing packing up the dogs and the laptops and taking a road trip. Stay tuned to see what comes of that idea.

You will have time to heal.

When you receive the call that your treatment is scheduled, you might be excited but also nervous. You may have questions about what to expect and how long it will take.

What many people don’t realize is that there is a healing process involved with any kind of breast cancer treatment. During this time, your body will need time to adjust to any changes or side effects that occur as a result of the treatment (like pain, swelling or bruising). It’s important for you to know that this can take anywhere from several days up until about six weeks depending on what type of surgery/radiation/chemotherapy was used on your breast(s).

Self-care is key.

Self-care is important. It’s also something that many people struggle with, but it’s not as hard as you might think.

Self-care means different things for different people, so there’s no one right answer when it comes to what activities constitute self-care. Some examples of self-care activities include:

  • Reading a great book (or two). I’m currently reading Michelle Obama’s 2nd book, “The Light We Carry” and it’s amazing.
  • Going on a walk with your dog or cat (or both – yes, cat too!).
  • Drinking tea while listening to your favorite podcast(s).
  • Taking some time to write in your journal
  • Going for a drive and listening to music that makes you happy.
  • Taking a nap (or two).
  • Self-care is something we all need, but it’s so easy to forget about when life gets busy or stressful. Taking time for yourself is important and something that you deserve. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you’re filling yours up with self-care activities every day!

It’s OK to be scared, sad or mad– it’s a normal reaction.

It’s OK to be scared, sad or mad–it’s a normal reaction. You may feel like you have to pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t. But there’s no need to do this! Your friends and family want to support you through your treatment and will understand if you need some time alone or if something makes you angry. I’ve been particularly grumpy lately, which can easily be attributed to quitting smoking, but it could have to do with anxiety about all this manifesting itself to irritability.

It can also help to talk about how scared and sad you are with other people who are going through cancer treatment too. I recently found a community called BezzyBC, which has nicely designed app that hosts a community of supportive cancer patients – from newly-diagnosed to survivors to all those in between. I’ve enjoyed my interactions on it so far.

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone.

You are not alone! It’s important to remember that you have a support system in place, even if it feels like everyone else has moved on with their lives. Your friends and family may be willing to help with the logistics of treatment or offer their emotional support. If this isn’t enough for you, there are other resources available:

  • A therapist can give advice on how best to manage your emotions during treatment and afterward. You can also use them as an outlet if you need someone who will listen without judgment or criticism (which is especially helpful if you feel like no one else understands).
  • Support groups offer a chance for people with similar experiences or diagnoses to connect with each other. You can find support groups on social media or through organizations like the American Cancer Society. These often provide valuable information about how others cope with similar circumstances.
  • Psychologists specialize in treating mental health issues through counseling sessions; they may also suggest medications or other forms of treatment depending upon what kind of problem needs solving.

There are people who will understand and help.

When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, it can feel like the world is ending. You may feel alone and as if no one understands what you’re going through. But there are people who will understand and help.

Hopefully you have family and friends who love you unconditionally–and they’ll be there for whatever you need from them: support, time off work, or just a shoulder to cry on when treatments get tough. You also might consider joining an online support group or finding an in-person one near where you live.

I encourage you to consider getting the support of close co-workers if you have them… you may feel hesitant to open up about this at work – I’ve talked about this in the past. I’ve since become fully open about my diagnosis and treatment with my work team, and have a number of women on my team who have all shown so much support and caring for me. Their messages, emails, and even personal text messages have all made me feel loved and supported.

If professional counseling isn’t something that appeals to you right now (or if finances aren’t allowing), seek out medical professionals such as doctors or nurse practitioners who specialize in treating patients living with chronic conditions such as yours; they’ll be able to answer questions specific to your case while also providing general advice about how best manage symptoms throughout each day/week/month, etc.


There is a lot of information to take in when it comes to cancer treatment and recovery, but it’s important to remember that no two people will experience everything the same way. Your journey will be unique and full of challenges, but also opportunities for growth and healing. Be sure to take the time you need for yourself and find support from others who are going through similar experiences. While cancer is a chronic illness, it doesn’t mean you can’t live life to the fullest!

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