The Healing Process
Once a woman has weathered the diagnosis of breast cancer and has experienced the method of breast surgery that is right for her, she enters into the healing process. This phase is experienced by all women, no matter if she takes chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery alone. The simple diagnosis of cancer of any type causes a great psychological as well as a physical wound that must be given time to heal.
The immediate post operative period is a time in which the body's immune system and restorative resources are working in sync to heal the physical wounds of surgery. This should be a time in which the patient tempers gentle activity and rest. Many processes are occurring in order for healing to take place. New cells are being generated to heal the skin and tissue and boost the infection fighting capacity of the immune system. The body's metabolic rate increases and so does the need for good nutrition and proper fluid balance.
Balanced, healthy meals are in order during this period. It is during this period that many women take a look at their lifestyles and eating habits and make conscious choices to modify their diets toward healthy foods. Women who are undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy are at risk for decreased appetite and gastrointestinal track disturbances. It is very important to get in nutrient dense foods to supply the body with the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain the restorative processes . The human body is an efficient machine and can heal itself, but it needs fuel. Exercise is very important to women in the healing phase. Walking is an excellent way to exercise all the body systems at once. This is also an exercise that can start slow with short distances at one's own pace. Increasing distance as the patient's strength and stamina increase also helps one feel a sense of accomplishing goals.
The psychological healing process should also be nourished. Women who have experienced a diagnosis of cancer and breast surgery experience grief just as they would if they lost a loved one. The grief is for the loss of their sense of stability, or wholeness, or "normal life". Women should be allowed to grieve in their own way. This is a normal process and most women will move through it to a point of acceptance. For those who do not reach that point, therapists can help the patient reach psychological and emotional healing.
Many women have found that daily meditation is very comforting and helps them to feel energized physically, emotionally and mentally. Others have used imagery to visualize the body healing itself, the cancer cells consumed, the disease vanquished. Support groups help many women reach that place of emotional healing. Others rely on family and friends to talk things through. There are many books written about breast cancer and the healing phase.
What ever methods a patient chooses to get her through the healing phase, it is important to note that these are her choices. There are many things that have happened to her in which she had no choice, but taking control of her body and helping it heal is one way she calls the shots.