Breast Cancer Spread to Lymph Nodes: Coping Emotionally and Practically

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Breast cancer can be a difficult diagnosis, and it can be even more challenging when it has spread to the lymph nodes. My pathology report came back from the sentinel node biopsy they did during my mastectomy. They found breast cancer cells in the lymph nodes and I’m now faced with meeting with the radiological oncologist this week to discuss adjunctive treatments. I am feeling a bit of shock by this…I had it set in my mind that with choosing double mastectomy that I wouldn’t need any other treatments. When my doctor started discussing words like “chemotherapy” and “radiation”, by eyes welled up with tears. I feel all sorts of emotions right now – fear, frustration, wanting to hide in bed, but at the same time feeling strong, and knowing I have fight in me to beat cancer.

Dealing with the Emotional Toll

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions in response to this news. It’s normal to feel scared, angry, or even helpless. It’s important to give yourself permission to feel these emotions and to express them. Consider seeking out support from family and friends, or even joining a support group for breast cancer patients. Speaking with a mental health professional can also be helpful to process these emotions and develop coping mechanisms.

It’s also important to gather information about breast cancer and treatment options. This can help alleviate fears and empower you to make informed decisions about your healthcare. Ask your healthcare providers questions, do research online, and consider getting a second opinion to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of your diagnosis and treatment options. Gathering information about treatment options can help alleviate fears and empower you to make informed decisions. 

The Impact on Work

Dealing with breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, both physically and emotionally. Not only do you have to worry about your health and well-being, but you may also be concerned about your job and how to manage your work schedule while undergoing treatment.

It’s important to communicate with your employer about your diagnosis and treatment plan as early as possible. Be honest about your needs and limitations, and ask about options for taking time off or working from home to help balance your workload and treatment schedule. Your employer may also be able to provide accommodations or make adjustments to your work duties to help alleviate physical strain or fatigue.

Additionally, it’s important to check your benefits statement for short-term or long-term disability benefits, critical illness coverage, and hospital indemnity coverage. These benefits can provide financial support to help manage medical expenses and ongoing bills while you focus on your treatment and recovery.

Remember that your health and well-being should be your top priority during this time, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or support from your employer, loved ones, or healthcare team. With the right support and resources, you can manage your breast cancer treatment and return to work when you’re ready.

Preparing for Treatment

Preparing for chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but there are steps you can take to make the process more manageable. Start by asking your healthcare team what to expect during treatment, including potential side effects and how to manage them. Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes or dietary adjustments to help prepare your body for treatment.

It’s important to establish a support network of family and friends to help you through the treatment process. Consider reaching out to support groups or connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences to find comfort and advice. You can also seek guidance from your healthcare team, who can recommend resources and support services to help you navigate the emotional and physical challenges of treatment.

In addition to emotional support, it’s important to take practical steps to prepare for chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This may include arranging transportation to and from appointments, preparing meals ahead of time, and making sure you have a comfortable and relaxing space to rest and recover.

Establishing a routine can also be helpful in maintaining a sense of normalcy and control during this unpredictable and overwhelming time. Try to schedule your appointments and treatments at the same time each day, and make time for self-care activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This can include activities like meditation, yoga, or spending time outdoors in nature. Remember that every person’s experience with breast cancer treatment is unique, and it’s important to listen to your body and prioritize your needs during this time. 


With the right mindset, support, and preparation, you can work towards a successful outcome and recovery. Keep in mind that breast cancer is treatable and manageable, even if it has spread to the lymph nodes. Seek support, communicate with your employer, prepare for treatment, and prioritize your health during this time. Breast cancer may be bigger than you or me, but we are stronger than we think. Keep up the good fight. I will too. 

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