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Waiting for lumpectomy

I have yet to be diagnosed but I have a high suspicion of cancer based on mammogram and ultrasound. Do any of you have coping skills that work. I find waiting very difficult. I'm In Research mode but I don't want my life to be focused on what if or on cancer. I'm mostly okay and positive but I live alone and find I have episodes of anxiety and sadness and feeling isolated. Any suggestions?

9 Replies

You are where I am. I am getting my 2nd opinion but the 1st dr pretty sure its cancer, going by mammogram &ultrasound. Thought biopsy unnecessary. Its been almost 6 months since I discovered it & been living w/fear, uncertainty, disbelief, fright and depression ever since! I, too, live alone and feel very very isolated! I see only my caregiver, as I am disabled and in a wheelchair, so need constant t care besides. So, please know I know your feelings & believe me when I tell you that you are most definitely not alone.


Thank you for your kind words


I'm sorry you're going through this. Surround yourself with as many beautiful things as possible while you wait: people, movies, books, foods, things you enjoy. Be kind to yourself and remember to breathe. Deeply. What you are feeling is normal. Try also to push it from your mind as much as you can. I had a funky mammo 4 years ago and had to wait 3 weeks before I could get an appointment with a specialist. In between then, I had planned a family vacation. My first impulse was to cancel. And what, my husband asked, sit at home and worry. So, we went to California as planned, I surrounded myself with people I loved, the beauty of Joshua Tree, etc. Sure, there were some sleepless nights but for the most part, I was pretty good at not worrying.

Try to think positive. Even though they are very suspicious of cancer, it might not be. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Good luck to you...

Here's a link to an article I wrote for Ravishly about coping with a difficult diagnosis:

I've also copied and pasted it below:

10 Ways To Cope With A Difficult Diagnosis

At 11 pm one night, there was a fateful ping on my Facebook page. It was my friend Julie in the Netherlands. It was 4 in the morning there. Julie had been diagnosed with a uterine tumor and couldn’t sleep. She wondered how she’d muster the strength to get through the coming weeks—and how she’d tell her two sons. I could relate all too well.

As I responded to Julie with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I realized that my Facebook message to her contained the key: how I survived my own difficult diagnosis—breast cancer in 2013—could help others, like Julie, triumph through theirs. (Update: Julie’s 11.6 pound tumor and all the surrounding tissue ended up being benign!)

I heard the news today, oh boy.

So, you sweated (and maybe even cried) your way through a barrage of tests and biopsies, trying your best to think positive. Your moment of truth arrives: You’re sitting in the doctor’s office, holding your breath for a good prognosis. Fingers crossed, you offer up tiny, silent prayers to whatever god or goddess you hold dear. Then you hear the words it’s impossible to prepare yourself for: “I’m sorry, but it’s cancer.”

“It’s cancer” is probably the worst thing anyone has ever said to you, worse than the most tragic breakup, because after all, that’s not life or death—but this very well could be.

When my breast surgeon said those very words to me, I was stunned. I glanced over at my husband Peter, who looked as though he’d just been punched. Hard. In the stomach.

What came next was a jumbled swirl of events I couldn’t ever imagine: mastectomy, failed reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy. They were tough enough to endure, but getting through the initial blow of my diagnosis was the first impossible step.

Thinking back, I used a host of coping mechanisms which helped me through the shock and girded my loins for what lay ahead on the long road to healing.

1. Breathe.

Although it sounds simple, often the body’s response to upsetting news is to stop breathing—or more closely, to stop breathing correctly. Oxygen heals. Oxygen is cleansing. Our cells need oxygen. Evelina, my yoga instructor, constantly reminded me that the exhale is as important as the inhale. It pushes out the bad stuff, the stuff you don’t need. To relieve the stress, breathe deeply and fully. Repeat. Then breathe again.

2. Why worry?

Once upon a time, cancer meant almost certain death. Not so much anymore. And even if the worst happens, do you want to spend your time worrying or do you want to spend it living? My wise sage of a husband, who sees death daily as a firefighter/certified first responder, asked me, “Will worrying help you in any way?” Of course, it won’t. So stop.

3. Take it one day, one hour, one moment, at a time.

Don’t overwhelm yourself by looking too far ahead. And dismiss the things that aren’t definite. E.g., don’t fret about how you’ll get through chemotherapy if you don’t even know if you’ll need chemo yet. (But if you do, check this out.) Don’t look at everything that’s coming your way all at once. Take it one appointment, one test at a time.

4. Don’t give TMI.

Especially when telling your children, only give as much information as people need to know. Be honest and truthful but don’t offer painstaking details, especially to younger kids. In our post-diagnosis shock, Peter blurted out to me that we’d just tell our 13-year-old son, “Mommy has cancer and the summer’s going to suck.” Instead, I suggested we tell David, “Mommy has cancer. It’s going to be a tough summer but everything’s going to be all right.” P.S. We did and it was.

5. Stay positive.

Even if you’re scared shitless, even if you don’t believe it yourself, stay optimistic. Even if your gut says otherwise, convince yourself it’s going to be fine. Collect inspirational sayings like Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is that thing with feathers.” Let it be your mantra.

6. Stay strong.

You’ll discover a powerhouse of fortitude you never even knew you had. You’ll constantly astonish yourself. You’ll be as strong as you need to be. It comes from somewhere deep and true. It’s the essence that makes you you. Revel in it. Cultivate it.

7. Build your army.

People you never even expected will rise to the occasion and be there for you while those you thought you could depend on will fade away. But that’s okay. It’s all okay.

8. Educate, don’t fixate.

Don’t go into this blind. Educate yourself about your treatment and your options but don’t pour over every article ever written about your ailment. The problem with the Internet is that everything is up there, whether it’s true or not. Even stupid things written by stupid people. Stick to reliable sources and be done with it.

9. Hug, love, and laugh as often as possible.

You’ll be amazed at how good a hug feels when you’re scared or feel like crap. You’ll be surprised at how cathartic laughing at the fart scene in Blazing Saddles is. Surround yourself with people who love you. Allow yourself to be blown away by simple kindnesses. I’ll never forget the incredible scalp massage my stylist gave me after a wash; it was my last cut before I lost all my hair to chemo. When I called Aisha on it, she confessed, “I knew this was the one thing I could do to make you feel better.” And it did.

10. Take time for yourself.

Take a moment to take it all in. In a post-diagnosis stupor, Peter and I drove to a quiet bench after we left my surgeon’s office. We just sat, staring at the water, too staggered to talk at first. “What the hell just happened?” Peter asked. Neither of us knew. We held hands, breathed, and sorted it out. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.


Everything you are feeling is very normal. Finding a lump or being told your mammo is suspicious is life altering and conjors up worst case scenarios. I was in disbelief and very frightened. I was sad, anxious and isolated myself even when friends and family reached out. I instinctively reached out to friends who have been through this because they truly know every drop and turn on this roller coaster ride. Forums such as this, call in support lines and attending support groups has been very helpful.

But when alone, late at night, when faced with the reality of doctor appts or unpleasant procedures I turned to a simple 18 minute meditation video I found on YouTube. I had never meditated before but found this to be my life saver. This is the link.

I am now 6 months post lumpectomy and 3 months post radiation. Both my smile and life are back. Hang in there. Find your comforts and allow others to support you when supporting yourself is difficult. Try to live your life and do what you usually enjoy even if it may not feel quite right at this time.

Keep us posted we are here for you.

R in NYC

1 like

Waiting is pretty standard with any suspicion of cancer, and doubly so with a certain diagnosis of cancer! There is such a sense of loss of control! I gathered all the info I could--visited the local book store and looked at all the books on breast cancer and cancer and bought the ones that most spoke to me. My impression at the time was that being a cancer patient meant hair loss and looking pale and "sick" so I ordered a good wig and bought some high coverage make up! Allow yourself to be anxious, sad and isolated, but don't "live there!' Use that time, if this resonates with you, to do something artistic--write prose, poems, songs, sing, draw, paint, knit, whatever you find natural to do. If you need a physical outlet for anger, toss pillows or paper or beat on the bed! Do the things that you most enjoy. Garden. Bake. Swim. Walk the dog. And know that a diagnosis of breast cancer is not the worst thing that could happen to you! Imagine living in a war torn part of the world and trying to keep your children safe, or trying to get medical care or imagine what your great grandmother would have had in terms of medical choices! I have a sometimes dark sense of humor--I thought about nutty stuff like what to do with an amputated breast (stuff it, mount it and decorate it seasonally, that kind of thing), or non surgical ways to get rid of a breast (smear it with wart remover, that kind of nutty thing) just to lighten the whole topic up a bit. I'm sure that would not be everybody's cup of tea but it helped me to laugh! But know that you are not alone, that there are many of us who have been where you are and understand how crazy making it is! And we survived, with or without cancer, with early cancer, metastatic cancer and somewhere in between. One step at a time! But lots of waiting at first! It's not unusual for it to take several weeks between initial doc appt and the concern being raised and first treatment. Seeing a breast cancer specialist oncologist is an option and very much worth getting a second opinion from if cancer cells are found. Good luck to you! Sending cyberhugs, prayers and healing thoughts.


I found that waiting for diagnosis and treatment plans were some of the most hardest parts of the journey. I agree that guided meditations work beautifully to ease anxiety at the most difficult times. I LOVE the guided meditation recommended by haagr, and it looks like the whole YouTube channel will be helpful. I also found a free app called Insight Timer with audio guided meditations and gentle music that gets me through the night. If it's available to you, hypnotherapy works on an individual level. I'm blessed to live near the Sari Center (West Palm Beach, FL), which offers complementary therapies (hypnotherapy, acupuncture, healing touch, massage/reflexology, etc.) on a sliding scale fee basis for cancer patients, survivors, and their caretakers. It helped me get through my first primary cancer treatment (soft tissue sarcoma) 6 years ago. For my current breast cancer, my pre-surgery hypnotherapy session resulted in my being totally (I'm not kidding!) relaxed the day of surgery, and I'm still feeling good now (5 days afterwards). Perhaps hypnotherapy at a reasonable cost is available to you where you live. Keep sharing and participating in groups to avoid your feelings of isolation. Wishing you a benign diagnosis!


Thank you! I have left a message for a local hypnotherapist. I downloaded the app for meditations and that looks great!

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Hi vrbwriter2, It's not clear from your post how long you have to wait for what appears to be an excisional biopsy. If the wait seems excessive to you, you might want to call and see if your surgery can be moved up or if you can be put on a waiting list for an earlier appointment. As others have pointed out, waiting for diagnoses and other information is one of the worst parts of the breast cancer experience. If there is no way to cut the wait short, you might start making a list of questions to ask your doctor and any concerns you have. At least that will take the anxieties that are swirling around in your brain and do something constructive with them. Committing them to paper can actually help you stop reciting them to yourself. Plus, if it does indeed turn out to be breast cancer, your list will be a useful tool going forward. Very best wishes.


Hi there, you need to keep yourself busy so you don't think too much about it. I tried Meditation which helped calm me down lots. Find a local class to learn how to do it properly.

Hope this helps and I hope you are ok .

from Louise


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