Coping With Cancer and Your Relationship
- Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, 61, says she struggled to cope with her breast cancer diagnosis and her breakup with cyclist Lance Armstrong, both of which happened in February 2006 beginning with the breakup.
- Every survivor has their own way of coping with their diagnosis — whether it’s exercise, advocacy, or meditation. For Crow, she turned to something that lifts her spirits emotionally – her music.
- Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik tells SurvivorNet that the patient or person going through a stressful event should understand that their emotions will be fluid. You may feel okay one day and feel overwhelmed with stress the following day. Sometimes, seeking a mental health professional is necessary to provide mental health treatment.
- Crow was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy and radiotherapy to treat her cancer.
- Dr. Chirag Shah, Director of Breast Radiation Oncology at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, says some studies show the risk of dying from stage zero breast cancer is very low, causing some doctors to look at less aggressive treatment like active surveillance.
The singer, 61, struggled to cope with her breast cancer diagnosis in 2006 the same year she also was dealing with a public breakup with cyclist Lance Armstrong. Amid the cancer diagnosis and relationship rift, Crow was left questioning herself.Read More
Crow had been with Armstrong for three years before the engagement was ended. Crow said she turned to making music to help her cope with her emotions during this challenging period in her life. She wrote “Make it Go Away (Radiation Song)” to help her emotionally.
“I made an oath that I wouldn’t bury the experience – I’d sit with it and really work my way through it,” she said, adding that music helped her enter a new phase in life.
“It was sort of like, okay, I’ve crossed the finish line; I’ve come out on the other side. It felt great and empowering,” Crow added.
Every survivor we talk to has their own way of coping with their diagnosis — whether it’s exercise, advocacy, or meditation. For Crow, she turned to something that lifts her spirits emotionally – her music.
Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik tells SurvivorNet that the patient or person going through a stressful event should understand that their emotions will be fluid. You may feel okay one day and feel overwhelmed with stress the following day. In these moments, when you realize your emotions are untenable, you should consider turning to your supporters, which may include a therapist, friends, and family.
If a stressful event is affecting how you think and feel, it may be time to seek some mental health treatment.
Helping You Through Breast Cancer Treatment
Sheryl’s Breast Cancer Battle
Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 44 with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), also known as stage zero breast cancer.
Stage zero cancer means abnormal cells can be found in the breast milk duct and have become cancerous but have not yet metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.
How to treat stage zero breast cancer is sometimes debated among experts. The current standard of care is treatment with either lumpectomy or mastectomy, radiation, and hormonal therapy. However, since the risk of dying from stage zero breast cancer is low, some doctors employ less invasive treatment such as “active surveillance,” which closely monitors the cancer without surgery or more aggressive treatment.
WATCH: Understanding stage zero breast cancer.
Crow underwent a routine mammogram, which helped detect she had signs of cancer.
“It never occurred to me that the mammogram would find anything because I have no family history and I had no signs of it, no lumps or anything like that…and I was extremely, and still am, very healthy, very athletic and fit. I just didn’t think I would be a candidate at all,” Crow told People Magazine.
Crow’s treatment involved a lumpectomy, which is a procedure that removes the cancerous area of the breast.
The “My Favorite Mistake” singer also underwent multiple rounds of radiation treatments that lasted for seven weeks. Radiotherapy (radiation) involves using high-energy beams aimed at cancer cells designed to kill them.
“When it comes to radiation therapy to the breast, what we’re learning is that shorter courses of radiation, like short course whole breast, may be associated with equal clinical outcomes and even the potential for reduced side effects,” Dr. Chirag Shah, Director of Breast Radiation Oncology at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet.
WATCH: Radiation and breast cancer.
After undergoing surgery and radiation, Crow’s went into remission. Her experience has motivated her to become a staunch advocate for urging women to get their mammograms and screen for breast cancer.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you find yourself struggling with a diagnosis or helping a loved one cope with their emotions, consider asking your doctor the following questions:
- How can I go about improving my outlook/mental health?
- Are there any activities I can do to encourage positive feelings?
- When should I seek other interventions if I’m still struggling?
- What are the steps to finding a different therapist if the one I’m using is not working out?