Information overload on diagnosis day

From guest blogger Jane Bissell

Women newly diagnosed with breast cancer will often say that it's an 'information overload.' 

To hear that you have breast cancer, and then to be given folders, pamphlets, and many sheets of paper is sometimes more than we can handle within the relatively short space of time it takes to be informed that your life really has changed quite dramatically.

Some take the information home and don't look at it for days. Others get into it right away, or take it in steps, a little at a time.

I had asked my best friend to go with me to my appointment that day which we both had an intuitive but unspoken feeling about. My surgeon had asked me to come  in on a Saturday, so my friend and I knew something major was going down but neither of us mentioned breast cancer as a possibility.

Even though I had an inkling about what was to come, it was still a shock to hear my surgeon, Belinda Scott, say, "You have breast cancer."

I believe both Belinda and my friend did everything right that day. After she'd told me the news, Belinda offered me a cup of cold water, and she spoke to me very clearly and calmly about what we would do next. She also suggested I get an exercise book and start writing things down - questions, bits of information, or just thoughts and feelings, whatever I wanted. That suggestion eventually became the journal that formed the basis for my book Welcome to the Amazon Club.
And my friend was there for me too, a supportive, calm, reassuring presence. Afterwards, when we returned to her place, she said, 'What can I do for you?' and I suggested a shot of whiskey.

'I think I'll have one too,' she said.

As for all the information I received that day - a folder full of loose papers, brochures, booklets - well, I am not ashamed to say that I said 'bugger' and very dramatically tossed it into the wall as we left Belinda's office.

All of the papers went flying everywhere, and my friend very carefully collected every last one and put them back into the folder.

Jane Bissell is a writer and life writing workshop facilitator living in Auckland.
Visit her website to find out more.


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