Building a Trustworthy Team
– Finding Support

Facing breast cancer is undeniably challenging. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or managing survivorship, who helps and supports you can make a difference in your quality of life.

Assembling a team you can trust is pivotal. But how do you know who to trust? How do you ensure that your medical providers truly listen to you and prioritize your well-being? And that you are getting the support you need at home?

Choosing the Right Providers
Your medical team plays a crucial role in your cancer journey. If you feel unheard or sidelined by your current providers, remember that changing them is not only an option but often necessary. Your health and peace of mind should be at the forefront, and any provider who doesn’t prioritize that isn’t the right fit for you.

Carefully consider your goals (your tolerance for procedures, reducing damage from medications, ability to drive and care for children, full range of motion in your arms) and make sure your provider understands and is willing to help you achieve your quality of life. Ask for suggestions/referrals from others, to help you get an idea about which providers might be best for you. Reading reviews and asking other patients can also lead you to a great provider.

Remember, you have the right to choose your medical care and be an active participant in decisions about your treatment. Your voice matters, and any choice regarding your health should ultimately be yours.

Providers to consider: Oncologist, Integrative oncologist (like me! Offer natural suggestions to optimize treatment and support your mind/body), radiologist, palliative care (specializes in comfort), pharmacist, acupuncturist, massage therapist, physical therapist, lymph therapist, counselor, geneticist, personal trainer.

Defining Support
Feeling alone is common. Asking for help can be hard, and is also a testament to your strength and understanding of your own needs. Support looks different for everyone, but if you identify and speak up about what works best for you, you will get better care. For some, it’s a listening ear or a comforting hug. For others, it might be assistance with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or running errands. Take a moment to reflect on what support means to you and communicate those needs to your community. It’s OK to say no to things that don’t actually help you, and to be clear about the ways your friends and family can show up for you in meaningful ways.

Your At-Home Team
Your at-home team consists of the people who offer emotional, practical, and sometimes physical support. This could include family members, friends, or even support groups. They are your cheerleaders, your shoulders to cry on, and your companions through the ups and downs.

The people you live with during and after treatment also play a role in your health. If you have a partner that is not helping with daily tasks, or children that need school and sports logistics covered, you need advocates to help you fight for your priorities while also getting help to get through each day. Consider asking your doctor (or a trusted family friend) to talk to your “roommates” (spouse, children, extended family) on your behalf, so they know you need rest, not more chores.

Unexpected Allies
Sometimes, the people you feel most comfortable with during this time might surprise you. They may not be the ones you expected to lean on but prove to be invaluable members of your support system. It can be another unwelcomed challenge to feel distanced from friends and family, especially if you relied on them before cancer. Many people cannot overcome their own worries to be present for you. Having people you care about not understand what you are going through can be heartbreaking. Acknowledge the grief and loss you are feeling, and focus on people who do give you uplift, comedic relief, great meals, and priceless friendship. Be open to and lean in to the “angels” that do show up for you: you deserve to be seen, heard and cared for.

Ultimately, you are the one experiencing the ups and downs of cancer personally. I encourage you to be clear and loud about what works best for you, trust your instincts if something is wrong (or right), and don’t let providers or family derail you from living the best life for you.

Yours in Health,
Dr. Laura James, ND, FABNO

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