Build a support system

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Advice from survivors

Who better to guide people diagnosed with breast cancer than those who have walked the path? The following is advice for those recently diagnosed with breast cancer from women who have received the diagnosis. Submissions have been edited for clarity and brevity. Read more at www.columbian.com/news/health/breast-cancer.

My advice to women who have just been diagnosed or are undergoing treatment is to build your support system. That can include friends and relatives, other women who have been through treatment, a counselor, a massage therapist, a workout partner, a cancer support group, a church family. The emotional side of a cancer diagnosis is just as hard, if not harder, than the physical side.

Treatment is a whirlwind and usually happens over a short period of time (a year to a year and a half). You go through all the things that your doctors tell you to do, and then you’re left a different person than when you started, wondering what just happened. A good counselor or group of fellow survivors can help you make sense of it all, grieve the losses and give you hope that your life will be “normal” again.

For me, the Pink Lemonade Project retreats were very helpful in my recovery. I’ve made lifelong friends who understand what a cancer diagnosis is like because they’ve lived it too.

— Michelle Urke of Vancouver.

Diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma in November 2013 at age 46. Currently, no evidence of disease.