NJ1015 town hall: Emotional support is crucial for breast cancer patients
Diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer about 18 months ago, Maryann from Pompton Plains is already in remission. But now she's got a new worry — will her PET scan next month show that cancer has returned?
"It's a really tough place to be, that's for sure," said the 56-year-old who called in during New Jersey 101.5's town hall on breast cancer Tuesday evening.
After a breast cancer diagnosis, medical support is an obvious must. But, as seen during the hour-long event, emotional support can be nearly as important for some people who feel lost and alone.
"It's a sign of strength to be able to seek out that level of support," said Jill Kaplan, program director for Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey.
Kaplan joined a pair of breast cancer survivors — one of whom is currently battling the disease for a second time — and an oncologist from the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, on the town hall panel.
"It truly is so important to have a cancer patient's feelings validated and supported," Kaplan said.
A diagnosis, whether it's Stage 4 or Stage 0, can start an emotional rollercoaster for those blindsided by the news, she said. And every case is relevant because no one should have to face the disease alone.
"People are afraid to say 'why me?' I encourage them to say 'why me?' and not just get stuck there," Kaplan said. "People sometimes have myths and misconceptions about a feeling — if I cry, I'm not strong. I personally think that, if I cry, I am strong because I have the ability to get in touch with that feeling."
As in Maryann's case, support may be needed even after there's no evidence of disease. In the post-treatment phase, there's the nagging fear that the cancer isn't gone for good.
Maryann said she's not sure she would have made it through her journey so far without the support of others — many of them being strangers.
New Jersey 101.5 breast cancer series
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.