Managing anxiety after a breast cancer diagnosis
Breast Cancer,  Mental Health

Managing the Anxiety that Comes with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

The landscape of life shifts tremendously after a breast cancer diagnosis. The reality is stark and the journey sprawling, feeling as though you have walked into a marathon without a warm-up. You find yourself standing on the edge of an uncontrollable situation and information.

Among the many facets of this mammoth experience, the management of anxiety remains a critical aspect. Anxiety is an expected response when confronted with a life-altering diagnosis such as cancer. Aware of the power anxiety could wield, I took some conscious steps to cope with it.

My initial response was building a fortress around my mind. It isn’t about sticking your head in the sand; it’s about selective processing of information. The world of breast cancer and its related information is vast; you could drown if you let it all in too quickly. It’s crucial, then, to let the details in at a pace you can handle. Choose your sources of information carefully. Pacesetting your informational intake can prevent overwhelming fear and anxiety.

Physical training was another ally in my struggle against anxiety. Regular exercise became my salvation – an escape, even. Walking, shadow boxing, riding the Peloton, weightlifting – these were not just pastimes. Instead, they were critical coping strategies, my mental anchors in the stormy sea. Approaching the journey as if training for an endurance event turned out to be a surprisingly effective way of fighting anxiety. They fortified my spirit, and helped me for the demanding journey lying ahead.

Next, came the challenge of online support groups. Connecting with other survivors offers strength and shared wisdom. But, it is a painstaking reality that every story is not a sunny one, and the shared sorrows and fears can spiral anxiety. I found that sometimes the best course of action for me was to step back. Remember, it is different for everyone.

Communicating openly about my diagnosis helped immensely in managing anxiety. Once past the initial shock, sharing my story through various channels became a therapeutic outlet. It allowed me to articulate my fears and anxieties, understand them better, and gradually make peace with them.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the journey taught me that it’s okay to seek professional help. The trauma triggered by a cancer diagnosis can take a significant toll on your mental health. Connecting with therapists who specialize in assisting cancer patients can be indispensable in managing anxiety.

Remember: Your journey is unique. Don’t compare it with others. As you embark on this voyage, use knowledge as power but also as a shield. Advocate for yourself and stay in tune with your body and mind. This marathon may be tough, but every step you take matters. Even in the face of anxiety, always remember – you are stronger than you think.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is a breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, author, in-demand speaker, women’s health advocate, professional communicator and a globally recognized health rebel. Ellyn's best-selling book "Flat Please Hold the Shame," is a girlfriend’s companion guide for those on the breast cancer journey. She is also the co-creator of, the world’s first conversational AI companion for those on the breast cancer journey. With Dense Breasts Canada and award-winning photographer Hilary Gauld, Ellyn also co-produced I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a celebrated photo essay showing the diverse faces and stories of 31 individuals on the breast cancer journey. Ellyn’s story and have been featured in People Magazine, Chatelaine Magazine, the Globe and Mail, CTV National News and Your Morning, and Fast Company.

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