Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and then coping with the treatment and recovery is challenging for everyone and it’s this time in your life when you need the support of your friends and family more than ever.
Two friends recently told the Sun about how they were able to support one another after both being diagnosed with breast cancer within around one year of each other.
Jo Conway, a fashion designer, received her diagnosis in 2015 and remembered going into complete shock after the news. “It was very intense and overwhelming, with information thrown at me about treatment options and prognoses and decisions to make,” she said.
Her breast cancer was Stage 1 and although she didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy, she did have a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Jo recalled that some of her friends acted “strangely” around her after the diagnosis, but noted that one friend in particular, Alex Petropoulos, always treated her “as though nothing was wrong”.
Their friendship grew during Jo’s treatment, and she describes being able to talk to Alex about everything she was going through as “huge”.
“When I was off work after my surgery, Alex sent me constant messages checking up on me. That’s what really helped – not the grand gestures,” she added.
When Jo was in remission, she got a call from Alex to tell her that she’d been for tests after finding a lump in her own breast. Jo explained that she did everything she could in the two weeks Alex had to wait for her test results to keep her mind off it.
Alex, a music journalist, revealed just how much her friendship with Jo has helped her during her battle with the disease.
“My friendship with her has proved invaluable – having someone who has been there before and knows what I’m feeling,” she told the newspaper.
Alex also revealed that going through her own battle with cancer gave her a new appreciation of Jo, and a new level of respect for the way she dealt with her own cancer diagnosis.
The pair agreed that supporting each other through these difficult times has strengthened their friendship considerably – and it demonstrates the importance of having that emotional support if you’re in a similar situation.
While friends and family are undoubtedly vital to helping people deal with a breast cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment, researchers at Birkbeck, University of London, recently found that simple brain-training exercises can help breast cancer survivors reduce their emotional vulnerability.
The research acknowledged that many women suffer post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression following treatment, and that their self confidence is affected.
However, the researchers found that women who were given brain-training exercises to do for 12 days experienced a 16 per cent reduction in anxiety and distress-related symptoms, compared to the control group.
Professor Derakhshan, who specialises in experimental psychopathology at Birkbeck’s Department of Psychological Sciences, explained that “by building new neural connections in the brain, we can pave the way towards resilience and cognitive flexibility improving neural efficacy”.
As well as having supportive friends and family, and using other techniques to build up your resilience after treatment, it’s important to find clothing that makes you look and feel great after you’ve had a mastectomy. Take a look at our range of mastectomy tops to find something to suit you.