Assume the Responsibility for Learning About Your Diagnosis and Treatment Options - The radiation technician who assisted in placing the Scout marker asked me if I knew what type of breast cancer I had. I quickly answered her. She then said, "You would be surprised how many women are unable to answer that question." Learning about your diagnosis and resulting treatment options will make your medical appointments more productive because the information that will be provided is already familiar and you will have already formulated your questions.
Know What You Want - As you learn about your diagnosis and upcoming procedures it is important to make your own decisions about things like the degree to which you want to preserve your breast. In my case, I was BRCA negative and had no reason to believe that I was at risk for breast cancer recurrence. This meant that a mastectomy was an unnecessary and extreme option for me. However, should the cancer reoccur, my goal was to preserve the breast tissue such that future radiation was an option (once you receive whole breast radiation you are no longer a viable candidate for radiation treatment and move to a mastectomy upon recurrence). Knowing what you want helps not only you but your physician. This was confirmed when my surgeon called the radiation oncologist during surgery to confirm that if she removed the tumor up to my chest wall that I would still be a candidate for internal radiation (i.e., brachytherapy). My surgeon and radiation oncologist knew that preserving the breast was driving my treatment choices and they worked to ensure that goal was met, wherever possible.
Anticipate Your Needs - One of the best decisions that I made the week of radiation was to not work. I was receiving radiation twice a day and I can not imagine the unnecessary stress that would have resulted from also juggling work texts and emails before, in between, and after treatment. Anticipating that I needed the time to emotionally and physically absorb what was happening to me was a critical aspect of successfully completing treatment.
Let Friends and Family Help You - One of the greatest blessings of treatment was allowing the people who love me to help me and my husband. Whether it was rides to radiation, meals delivered to the house, or prayers and cards of support each gesture made the journey of treatment easier and more meaningful.