As women quickly discover, their life when treatment ends is very different from what it was before their diagnosis. Often exhausted, anxious, and emotionally volatile, they are beset by physical discomforts, fearful of intimacy, afraid for their children, worried about recurrence. Anticipating a return to "normalcy," they discover that the old version of normal no longer applies.
There could be no more knowledgeable guide for women embarking on this complicated journey than Hester Hill Schnipper, who is herself both an experienced oncology social worker and a breast cancer survivor. This comprehensive handbook provides jargon-free information on the wide range of practical issues women face as they navigate the journey back to health, including:
-Managing physical problems such as fatigue, hot flashes, and aches and pains
-Handling relationships: your children, your partner, your parents, your friends.
-How to regain emotional and sexual intimacy
-Coping with financial and workplace issues
-Genetic testing: why, whether, when
-How to move beyond the fear of recurrence
-And much more
This indispensable book will help you rediscover your capacity for joy as you move forward into the future--as a survivor.
Although countless books and pamphlets have been written for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer, little exists for women who have finished their treatment. While many outsiders assume that the end of treatment brings only relief, women who have had breast cancer know that the post-treatment chapter in the breast cancer experience is one of the most difficult. Schnipper, a breast cancer survivor and an oncology social worker, helps prepare women for life after breast cancer by imparting information and advice in an intimate and direct manner. She covers all aspects of the experience, including physical recovery, coping with family members who expect everything to go back to normal immediately, fertility and fear of recurrence. The idea of transformation underlies the book, and she devotes a moving chapter to the different ways some women have gained or regained a sense of spirituality. As Schnipper writes, "Our lives have been changed in many ways and we have tried to be understanding and flexible about our possibilities.... Our hearts and souls, however, need time to catch up." In this volume, readers will find a guide that might help them better understand their infinitely complex circumstances and find hope.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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September 24, 2006
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Excerpt from After Breast Cancer by Hester Hill Schnipper
1 My Personal Journey As hard as it is to remember, there was a before. I had lived for forty-four years and thought of myself as having been lucky. I had been a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a lover, and a friend. I ate right, exercised, got enough sleep, and in general took good care of myself. I had been working as an oncology social worker for more than fifteen years and had recently fallen in love with a wonderful man who happened to be a medical oncologist. It usually seemed a good thing that we shared so much of our work lives and could help and understand each other. Spending our days in the midst of cancer, as we both did, we recognized and appreciated our own good health and good fortune. I had lived through the death of my beloved father, my mother's aging and increasing needs, the loss of too many patients and friends to cancer. I had come through a divorce and was hopeful that my daughters and I were moving forward toward better times. My older daughter was clearly thriving in college, and my younger girl was a typical twelve-year-old, wondering about boys and friendships and whether I could drive her to the mall on Friday evening. When I try to remember who I was and how my life was before breast cancer, I think especially of my work. My hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, has always been a well-known and respected center for breast cancer treatment. When I began to work there in 1979, it was one of only three institutions in the country where some women with certain forms of the disease were regularly offered the choice of a wide excision (lumpectomy) and radiation therapy rather than mastectomy. Many women came from distant cities to avail themselves of this breast-conserving option. The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer was an institutional priority and quickly became my passion. In the years since then, I have developed a wonderful and well-respected psychosocial support program for women who have breast cancer. With the overarching goal always empowerment and community, I have met with women and their families for counseling, facilitated countless support groups for women in all stages of breast cancer, developed a model peer-support program called Patient to Patient, Heart to Heart, and offered many special programs. I have been active in many national breast cancer and professional organizations and have lectured widely. I have been on the faculty at the Harvard Medical School and the Boston University School of Social Work. Additionally, I have written numerous professional articles about psychosocial aspects of breast cancer and, following my own diagnosis, about my dual perspective and experience as patient and clinician. Through the years, I have known and loved hundreds of women with breast cancer. I have spent thousands of hours with them and with their families as they learned to cope with their disease and its treatment. I have kept watch by too many bedsides as women died of this illness, and I have grieved later with their husbands and children. I have always had an enormous respect for the power of breast cancer and never underestimated its strength and guile. My style with my patients had always been one of relatively few rigid boundaries and of shared human relationships, but my own diagnosis of cancer shattered any lingering walls between us and set up a new paradigm of truly working together. Whether in individual sessions in my office or in groups, we together, sharing our strength, turned to face down the tiger. We rebuilt our lives and we eventually came to appreciate the clarity that cancer brings. My own vision gradually expanded to include a life lived in parallel: therapist and patient, caregiver and care recipient. My strongest alliances shifted to stand with my patients rather than with my professional colleagues.