Finding Added Purpose While Battling Cancer
- “The Real Housewives of Miami” star Guerdy Abraira, 45, uses her superstardom and newfound experience as a breast cancer warrior to encourage other women with screenings and early detection.
- Abraira discovered her breast cancer early during a routine mammogram. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women begin screening for breast cancer at age 40. Women should talk with their doctor to learn about their cancer risk and assess when is a good time to start annual mammograms.
- A breast cancer diagnosis can spawn a flurry of emotions and impact your mental health. Research published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences found that “35 to 40 percent of cancer patients have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder,” patients battling late-stage cancer tend to face even more significant mental health challenges.
- To help manage your mental health while coping with a diagnosis, some helpful tips include leaning on your support group, journaling, and/or seeking a mental health professional.
For “Real Housewives of Miami” star Guerdy Abraira, 45, this Breast Cancer Awareness month has extra special meaning as she is now on her own cancer journey. The reality TV star is linking with other celebrities to raise money and awareness for the disease. Her focus has been on early detection and breast cancer screening.
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“Still thinking of this Girl Power with a few of my girls at Mila Group Miami raising funds for a worthy cause,” the popular Housewife wrote in an Instagram post.
Abraira’s video post shows a cohort of beautiful women donning elegant pink dresses at a fancy event and upscale dinner. The event promoted the Pink Luminous Advocacy project, which is working on an at-home device to help women detect abnormalities in their breasts.
Abraira discovered her breast cancer through a routine mammogram screening, and luckily for the brave mother of two, her cancer was caught early.
Early detection and breast cancer screening are common themes promoted throughout October for Breast Cancer Awareness. Additionally, SurvivorNet has focused on mental health among cancer patients.
While millions of people have unmet mental health needs, the need for mental health resources is even greater among cancer patients and their families.
Research published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences found that “35 to 40 percent of cancer patients have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder,” and the number of people experiencing mental health challenges is “higher among cancer patients with advanced stages of cancer and in palliative care settings.”
Helping Patients Cope with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
According to Bravo TV, Abraira is known for being “outspoken and energetic” on the popular reality TV show. She had a successful career as an event planner before joining the show. She learned of her breast cancer while vacationing in St. Barts in the Caribbean this past Spring. Her doctor phoned her to tell her that her mammogram revealed she had breast cancer.
“I am lucky that this breast cancer was discovered at an early stage. It is still scary, of course, but I have love and support from those around me, and that alone is the fuel that I need,” she previously wrote in an Instagram post.
Early-stage breast cancer means a small tumor in the breast, but no lymph nodes are affected.
Abraira has since undergone surgery, but it’s unclear what kind of surgery she had. Her hair loss is likely due to chemotherapy, a common phase for treating breast cancer. This is also often one of the most emotional phases during a cancer journey.
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. It usually begins about three to four weeks after starting chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment.
After having surgery, Abraira wrote that “the fight is not over,” and she thanked fans for their loving support.
Abraira has continuously credited her family for helping her through her journey. Support from loved ones is beneficial because it can help you navigate your emotions, which tend to be fluid amid treatment.
Breast Cancer Screenings
Mammograms are used to screen for breast cancer. Women who haven’t gone through menopause are encouraged to get a mammogram annually between the ages of 45 and 54. If you have experienced menopause, you can get a mammogram every two years.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women begin screening for breast cancer at age 40. Women should talk with their doctor to learn about their cancer risk and assess when a good time is to start annual mammograms.
“We all agree regular screening mammography saves lives,” Dr. Connie Lehman, a professor at Harvard Medical School, told SurvivorNet.
Suppose you fit into the high-risk category for breast cancer, meaning a close family relative has been diagnosed. People at higher risk may have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or had radiation to the chest area when they were young. In cases like this, people in the high-risk category should begin annual mammograms at 30 years old.
Help Coping With a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If you are facing a breast cancer diagnosis, your emotions are likely to run high, which is completely normal. In fact, Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik says emotions are often fluid when coping with a diagnosis.
“The patient or person going through the stressful event should accept that emotions will be fluid. You may feel fine one day and then feel a massive wave of stress the next. It’s also important for those you look to for support, whether that’s a therapist, friends, and family, or both, to understand the fluidity of stress-related emotions,” Dr. Plutchik said.
WATCH: How to cope with complex and changing emotions.
If a stressful event affects how you think and feel, it may be time to seek mental health treatment. This could mean traditional talk therapy, medication, changing lifestyle habits (like exercise and diet), seeking a support group, or many other approaches.
Dr. Comen has some helpful tips for women needing a little extra help coping with a breast cancer diagnosis.
- Let your family and close friends know and let them help. So many cancer survivors tell us they want and need support but are often too preoccupied to make specific requests. Urge those close to you to jump in with whatever practical help they can offer.
- Keep a journal. It can be extremely cathartic to let those feelings loose on paper. Grab a pen and a nice journal and chronicle your thoughts throughout the day.
- Join a cancer support group. There are groups in nearly every community offering opportunities to connect with others going through a similar journey. You’ll learn constructive insight from others who can tell you about what to expect and how to stay strong on tough days.
- Consider seeing a therapist. Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist so you can discuss your fears and concerns in a safe space. Often, vocalizing your thoughts and feelings rather than internalizing them can provide relief.