As a breast cancer survivor & business woman, I understand that getting diagnosed with breast cancer in the prime of your life can be overwhelming. You are accosted with opinions, information, options, emotions, questions and so much more. So when it comes to breast cancer treatment, how do you separate the facts, from the fiction and cut through all the BS, to get to a version of your reality that makes some sense?
The same can be said for business. “When I got breast cancer at 28, I was climbing the corporate ladder in marketing (literally with my high heels intact). I realised there are so many parallels between my strategic approach to breast cancer and business (the boardroom). I’ve sat in countless board meetings, presentations, team sessions as well as built & executed hundreds of business strategies & lead many partners & teams.
Business has taught me that It’s essential to cut through the clutter so you can get to the real issues. So whether you’re in business or facing a life-threatening disease, these are my top tips to cut through the BS when faced with breast cancer treatment.
Knowledge is power, only with context
I quickly learned that my battle with cancer would hinge on my understanding of the disease and process I was going to be facing. However, appropriate, knowledge was key. When I was diagnosed, I rushed to Google searching terms like ‘will breast cancer kill me?’ and ‘survival rates’. Google can be a powerful tool, but also the darkest place.
The same is true in business. Gather information, research extensively, be like a sponge and absorb information. However, context is key, and context is always your own experience, your journey. Know what information and advice to filter out, and what to keep.
Separate fact from fiction
Like in business, when you have cancer you’ll have access to thousands of pieces of information online, from your team to your colleagues, family & friends. Everyone will be offering advice & opinions to help you with good intentions, however, it is essential to not take everything you get told or come across at face value. Weigh up the different insights before you make any decisions on your approach to your breast cancer treatment. Here are a few ways to separate fact from fiction:
- Check the source of the information is credible. Does it come from a medical team or is it just someone’s opinion based on their own experience
- Miracle cures and products will be on offer everywhere. Check if it is based on medical research or trials and look carefully at the results. If it is too good to be true, it probably is
- Seek expert opinion from your medical team and your oncologist. Feel free to get a second opinion if you are unsure and trust your gut
- Weigh up the risks and benefits of any information and understand both before diving into a decision
The same approach applies to business decisions. Use credible sources, always fact check, refer to experts for opinion & look at risk versus benefit before executing a strategy.
Ask the right questions for your breast cancer treatment
Being actively involved in your breast cancer treatment plan can be so empowering during cancer as opposed to being a passenger in the journey. One of the things I found the most useful while designing my cancer strategy, was preparing a list of questions ahead of my doctor’s appointments. Some of the questions I have in my notebook before my very first appointment were:
- What stage is my breast cancer at and what does that mean?
- Has my cancer spread to my lymph nodes?
- What are my breast cancer treatment options?
- What are the risks of each breast cancer treatment option?
- Will I need a mastectomy?
- Will I need chemotherapy?
- How much is the treatment and will medical aid cover it?
- What are the survival rates of my type of cancer?
Build a strong support system
They say many hands make light work and this is true for business and during breast cancer. What is important though, is that the team you choose to work with is the right team. I am a naturally positive, driven, ambitious, high heel wearing, kickass woman. At work & at during my breast cancer treatment, I wanted to be surrounded by people & a medical team who shared these values.
Choose your support team for breast cancer treatment
I chose not to go to any support meetings or join any online cancer support groups at the time. I had a preconceived notion that I would be the only young person there & that I would be surrounded by people twice my age. I was also convinced that being around people who were at a different stage of cancer to mine could get me into a dark place. I don’t regret this, however, when I started to dig deeper after my treatment, I do see so many beautiful, inspiring, young woman fighting breast cancer with so much vigour and tenacity & cancer organizations that spread awareness and offer so much support.
Identify the role of each person
My family, husband, friends, medical team, fur babies & colleagues were my support structure. I had everything I needed in those that surrounded me & they all played a different role in my journey during my breast cancer treatment. They were strong when I was weak, they took action when I could not, they helped me laugh when all I could do was cry. Our beloved family animals would lie by my bedside while I recovered from operations and treatments. The medical team had a combination of strength, directness, eccentricity, humour & compassion that I immediately connected with.
The same principle applies in business. Surround yourself with like-minded people who have strengths where you have weaknesses & who share the same work ethic as you do. A dynamic, diverse team that can support each other through challenging times, is a perfect breeding ground for success.
It’s not all things nice, with sugar and spice
I don’t recall seeing anyone say, breast cancer treatment is a breeze. It might be all things pretty and pink (and I do love myself some pink), but it is not sunshine and roses. I’m a strong believer in the power of the mind & how positive or negative thoughts can manifest in your body and your life. Positive affirmations have always been an important part of my daily routine.
This does not mean that you need to be positive all the time when going through breast cancer treatment or life challenges. No-one should expect you to. Statements like “just stay positive” and “only think positive thoughts” are not completely practical in many situations.
Do I believe my positive attitude helped me get through my darkest days and helped me work full time during my treatment? Absolutely. I also know that there were days my body hurt so much and I felt so sick that I didn’t want to be alive. No amount of sugar-coating it or positive self-talk was going to make me feel better and that was OK.
Be gentle with yourself and forgiving of yourself. Cancer is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, highs and lows and everything in between. There is no one size fits all cookie-cutter approach so do what works best for you.
Own your journey during breast cancer treatment
In life, in business, during breast cancer treatment, no 2 journey’s are the same. Each one is unique & although you cannot necessarily control all the outcomes, you have the power for it to be on your terms.
I chose to work full time during breast cancer & the many years of health challenges that followed, as I did not want cancer to rob me of my dreams & aspirations. Others have chosen to not work during their treatment, to focus their energy on healing their body. Some choose a lumpectomy as part of their treatment plan whereas I had a mastectomy.
There is no right or wrong approach, there is only what you choose to do that matters, with the information you have and no-one should judge you for it. Owning your journey & your decisions can give you a sense of control at a time when everything seems to be in chaos.
Be bold, be fierce, be fearless
I hope these tips help you cut through the BS during your breast cancer treatment. I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below or connect with me on social media. Be bold. Be fierce. Be fearless.
There are 3 things in life I consider myself experienced in. Boobs, breast cancer & the boardroom.
Let’s start with the former. Also known as lumps, bumps, lady lumps, the twins, the girls and even bazooka’s. Cosmopolitan even published a list of 101 different names for boobs. True story. Some are big, some are small, some perky, some floppy, some natural and some fake. Men seem mostly obsessed with them more than we do.
A woman’s breasts are a part of your body that makes you feel womanly, feel sexy. Sometimes a tight t-shirt that shows them off, a plunging neckline, gym wear or a swimming costume. Many opt to have them lifted, tucked, made bigger or smaller. They’re the topic of many conversations, stares, movie scenes & often portrayed as what makes a woman, well, a woman.
They occupied some mind space and a bit of focus through my teenage years and puberty, my first bra, and embarrassingly showing I was cold in a swimming pool as the resident visual thermometer.
Mammograms are one of the best screening tools to detect breast cancer early. For most woman, the thought of being told to take their clothes off, followed by someone touching their boobs & pointing them towards a piece of equipment would inspire shrieks of excitement and pleasure. I assure you this is not the case when one is faced with the annual mammogram. This is when the giant squash machine stands before you, makes your boobs feel like flat pancakes and the only shrieks you’ll hear from most woman is “ouch”.