After Breast Cancer: Answers to the Questions You're to Afraid to Ask

Overview

Each year, around the world, over one million women will be told they have breast cancer. All will face surgery, and most will undergo radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal treatment. But the worry isn't over when treatment ends. In the months and years that follow, women are left with nagging questions, questions they often are afraid to ask:

  • When will I know for sure that I...
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Overview

Each year, around the world, over one million women will be told they have breast cancer. All will face surgery, and most will undergo radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal treatment. But the worry isn't over when treatment ends. In the months and years that follow, women are left with nagging questions, questions they often are afraid to ask:

  • When will I know for sure that I am cured?
  • Shouldn't my doctor be doing more follow-up testing?
  • What are the real figures on breast cancer survival for women treated today?
  • How would I know if I had a recurrence?
  • How do I answer family and friends who think I worry too much?
  • Do other women ever feel the way I do, and how do they cope?
Author and 14 year breast cancer survivor Musa Mayer breaks the silence surrounding recurrence to talk frankly about the feelings of uncertainty and fear that breast cancer patients commonly face when their treatment ends, and for years thereafter. She reviews scientific literature (and debunks some commonly cited myths) by giving survival statistics corrected for current treatments and diagnostic profiles. She explains what is known about the benefits of follow-up visits and testing. Devoting several chapters to emotional recovery, she offers advice about how to tackle these fears through information and support. Throughout the book are the warm and wise voices of over 40 other women who have been through this same tough journey of tears, fears and triumph.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For the two million women living today after treatment for breast cancer, mention of the disease often elicits the response, "Been there; done that; don't want to do it again." Mayer, a counselor, activist, and contributor to publications such as MAMM magazine, felt the same after her diagnosis in 1989. But having researched the disease, she knew other women were at sea regarding their feelings and concerns about what happens next. Are they cured? Is the breast cancer gone? Will it recur? In an attempt to demonstrate the universality of these concerns, Mayer includes comments from women who are veterans of the breast cancer campaign. She also offers up statistic upon statistic of the current state of breast cancer and survivorship-perhaps too many, as the picture seems a bit more muddled after reading this than before. Ultimately, Mayer encourages women to be thoughtful, not tormented; they should let their bodies tell them if something is wrong. Breast cancer patients are basically all in the same boat. Mayer's final advice is to grab an oar and keep rowing. For comprehensive patient-health collections.-Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780596507831
  • Publisher: Patient Centered Guides
  • Publication date: 3/11/2003
  • Series: Patient Centered Guides Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.14 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Before completing her MFA in the Writing Division at Columbia University, Musa Mayer worked as a Master's level counselor in the Ohio Community Mental Health system, with a particular focus on groups and women's issues. She has written two memoirs, one about her own journey with breast cancer. Musa is author of Advanced Breast Cancer: A Guide to Living with Metastatic Disease. She is a nationally known and respected breast cancer activist. She has consulted for American Cancer Society, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Y-Me, and many other national groups on survivor issues (providing material for web sites, booklets, videos, and in-person training). She is contributing editor to MAMM magazine (women's cancer). She is a patient advocate for the National Cancer Institute and reviews clinical trials for breast cancer patients, speaks widely at cancer conferences or training sessions, and is active in the online breast cancer community. Musa also regularly teaches memoir writing, and leads writing workshops and retreats for people with life-threatening illnesses.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi
1. Two Million Strong 1
Breast cancer, then and now 2
What's bothering us 3
What we've lost 5
What we fear 7
How we've changed 9
Public silence, private dread 11
The worried well 13
2. Treatment's Over: Now What? 18
A sense of relief 19
The unknown companion 22
What will protect me now? 22
After the crisis 26
Feeling alone 27
Letting down 29
3. Cure and Survivor: Two Troubling Words 33
The "C" word 34
What is meant by the word "cure" 35
Am I cured? 37
Slogans and statistics 40
No evidence of disease (NED) 42
Survivor 44
4. Follow-up Visits and Worrisome Symptoms 48
Follow-up visits: Anything but routine 49
Some of us have to survive 54
Aches, pains and tears in the night 59
5. Everything You Want to Know About Recurrence 64
What we don't know 65
Different kinds of recurrence, different outcomes 68
What kind of symptoms should I be looking for? 71
How long will I be at risk of recurrence? 77
Don't look back 79
Long-term statistics on survival 81
Then and now 83
Conditional survival and period analysis 86
When do first recurrences happen? 88
Changes in breast cancer over time 90
6. Follow-up Testing: Fears, Facts and Fallacies 93
Testing and the search for reassurance 94
Tests beget tests 96
Chest x-rays 100
Tumor markers 101
Bone scans, CT and MRI 103
What the research tells us 104
When early detection doesn't apply 106
Guidelines and meta-analyses 108
Dissenting voices 111
PET scans 113
The costs of vigilance 116
So, what you're saying is...? 119
Your body will tell you 123
7. The People in Your Life 126
Pillow talk 127
Families and friends 132
Common ground: Finding support in the breast cancer community 138
One day, it could be me 143
On the loss of friends 146
Detoxifying death 149
Grieving the losses 150
8. Advice From the Real Experts 153
Try letting go 154
Get the help you need 156
Make your own way 158
Give it time 159
Live this moment 160
Seek the middle path 161
Go through the door that's open 162
Do what you love 165
Stay involved 167
Find your "new normal" 169
Turn inward to find meaning 171
"I have better things to do..." 173
Resources 177
Notes 181
Index 189
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2006

    Talk about a 'downer'!

    I recently finished up radiation therapy and was given this book, among others, from a woman at a health fair. I have to honestly say, I found it very negative and I actually started to get depressed and at one point it brought me to tears. My cancer was 5mm small, very early stage, estrogen receptor positive, no lymph node involvement. I had a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy and will now be on Tamoxifen for 5 years. I feel very blessed and lucky to have survived this ordeal. I think the book has way too many negative undertones and is not for the faint or weak! Definitely not for someone hoping to move on and put the breast cancer behind them and/or conquer their fears. I know I am not invincible, and if my cancer comes back again, then I will deal with it. But I am no longer going to be reading books such as this one that make you feel you are definitely going to die from breast cancer or that sooner or later breast cancer will strike you again, etc etc. Shocked to see so many positive reviews. I guess you may think I'm overly sensitive, but I am a very upbeat, positive person and after my husband read a few chapters, he told me to put it down, it wasn't for me. The only good parts of this book were the patients interviewed - thank God some of them have hope! Isn't that what we're striving for...hope? Certainly not another book to scare us into hysteria. I, for one, am not recommending it if you want to stay positive about your future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2005

    Praise for After Breast Cancer

    Review of After Breast Cancer: Answers to the Questions You¿re Afraid to Ask by Musa Mayer. Published by O¿Reilly, 2003. ISBN 0-596-5073-6. Paperback. 196 pages. The author of this book is a 14-year breast cancer survivor (at the time of publication.) Musa Mayer was a counselor in the Ohio Community Mental Health system, with a specialty in women¿s issues. The professional background, plus her personal experience, lends itself to specific knowledge to be an advocate for those facing breast cancer and its after effects. The author suspects that society encourages women to get on with their lives like before cancer, when in fact that is a faulty expectation. There is no going back to life as it was before cancer, because cancer shifts the foundation on which patients stand. Instead, survivors must build supports for a strong life after cancer. Mayer tells readers how to do that, and why it is necessary for post-cancer well- being. Mayer incorporates the experiences of 40 other women. The women share their thoughts and feelings about what happens after surgery and other cancer treatments are over. The book clearly addresses the concerns of women worrying about recurrence and/or metastatic breast cancer. ¿This book takes the position that for women diagnosed with breast cancer, coming to terms in a direct way with the fear of recurrence can become a crucial part of the recovery process.¿ For the two million women in the United States who will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, the recovery process is no easy task. The impact that cancer has on the patient, her family and friends, is profound. Mayer divides the issues of recovery into eight chapters, which include informational and emotional content. What determines a cure? What defines a survivor? What medical tests should a survivor have? What symptoms would a survivor experience? What fears are ¿normal?¿ How does a survivor experience a ¿new normal?¿ According to Mayer, survivors must ¿discover what is normal for us now.¿ In addition, Mayer explains the importance of support, and encourages survivors to seek support groups. She also includes an extensive resource guide. For those seeking a holistic approach to life after cancer, the area that is lacking in this book is a chapter on spirituality. After Breast Cancer is a one-of-a-kind book that should be in of every survivor¿s library for resources and reassurance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2003

    Thank You Musa Mayer

    The book both frightened me and gave me hope, if that makes sense. I was never sick or tired all through my six months of FAC chemo and I was not in any trauma when it was over. I hated those infusions and was so glad to walk out of there, never to return. My husband had died four years before from pancreatic cancer and I went through events pretty much on my own. I didn't feel supported there, I never wanted to go back. Like the book says, everyone expects you to go forth and be normal after treatment. No one who has not been there done that understands. This book is not only for those of us who have 'been there, done that', it needs to be read by family and friends as well, to help them understand. And I plan on giving a copy of this book to mine. Thank You Musa Mayer for writing this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2003

    A MUST for anyone just finishing treatment

    Although I had heard from others that finishing treatment can be unexpectedly hard, it still came as a surprise. I have held it together pretty well, I think, through everything that had happened to me. (diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer whilst pregnant).But I really did lose the plot a bit for a while, when it had all finished. This book has helped tremendously. It is a MUST for anyone just finishing treatment. Really wonderful

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    Facts that relieve my fears!

    After a breast cancer diagnosis, many of us live with fear and uncertainty about our future. In this beautifully written book, Musa Mayer tells it like it is, by bringing the questions out into the open, and then provides answers that take away the anxiety and confusion that surrounds us. Without whitewashing the disease, she gives us hope for lives less colored by fear.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2003

    A must read after breast cancer treatment

    I just finished reading Ms. Mayer's new book...my first reaction all the way through was I wish I'd had this when my treatment ended. There are an abundance of books for newly diagnosed women, but not much for after and nothing that touched on the fears and emotions as well as this book did, probably because it is written by someone who HAS experienced breast cancer and it shows in each chapter. My very favorite chapter explained follow up testing so thoroughly that I feel that I finally understand the tests, what they do and what they don't/can't do. This would be a very helpful gift for someone completing treatment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2003

    The Best Book For When Treatment Ends

    Musa Mayer has hit the nail on the head with this book! The experiences and practical advice from women who have made it through the aftermath of treatment offers the best insight and information I've read yet. This book is organized in a logical sequence that explores all the aspects of 'survival' after breast cancer with useful and necessary information. I read this book in one sitting and as a breast cancer 'survivor', I wish this book had been available the moment I finished treatment. I bought copies for my oncologist and our local breast cancer resource center.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2003

    A phenomenal book!

    This book is a gem! Well-crafted and articulate, it covers just what the title says: all those questions people are afraid to ask after a breast cancer diagnosis. It would be a useful book for any patient, for the family, for friends, even for medical professionals. Musa Mayer interviews a number of patients and combines their perspectives with analyses of what follow-up is and is NOT necessary for the breast cancer patient. People after a breast cancer diagnosis are scared, their worlds shaken. After the treatments are over, others think the patient should resume life unchanged, but that is difficult or impossible for many women, who feel a deep sense of unease and even depression. This book helps. I think it leaves the reader with greater clarity, greater calmness, greater perspective. I whole-heartedly give this book 5 stars, and would give it more if that were not the highest ranking available here!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2003

    After the Storm

    I titled this review on 'After Breast Cancer' because most people say 'Before the Storm'. I have found this time period after the shock of diagnosis, surgery and/or treatment to 'be' the storm. As in a terrible storm, things settle down after and get quiet. Others are convinced you are well now, since to them the worst is over. But inside, the worst has just begun. The doubts, the fears, the questions are still there. This is where the book 'After Breast Cancer' comes in and is an excellent resource for answering those questions you are keeping inside. This is the information you are afraid to talk to your loved ones about. You don't want to give them the fears you are carrying around. The author states much needed information to address these fears in simple terms. She interviews others like ourselves who have been through the period after the storm. You will say as I have, 'Wow, that sounds like me'. This is a well-written wealth of knowledge and caring to help us get on with the rest of our lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    After Breast Cancer: Answers to the Questions You're Afraid to Ask

    Relief. Laughter. Tears. A knowing nod. A chill. I devoured this book, hungrily,as I read my sister's stories. As a breast cancer survivor, I was told repeatedly by my care providers 'not to worry'... 'you have beat this'... 'walk away now'... 'close this chapter of the book'... 'move on'... But how do we do that when the fact remains that almost half of all women diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), as I was, eventually die of the disease? I felt misunderstood... made to feel a bit of the hypochondriac, as I visited my oncologist with each back pain... each unrelenting headache... each persistant cough? WHEN WILL I FINALLY STOP LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER? And then I read this book. Musa Mayer writes from her own experience as a breast cancer survivor, using her skills as a therapist and as a patient advocate. I finally feel like someone understands. She writes brilliantly, with clarity of vision and a spirited, confident heart. She reveals the experiences of many, MANY women who share my fears, without diminishing my own. She understands, yes... yet the book's greatest gift is the knowledge that I am not alone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2003

    Compassionate and Clear

    I loved the book! It is beautifully written, compassionate, clear, supportive and informative. It's personal and therefore, interesting, but also makes complex information clear and relevant. Musa, who is a breast cancer survivor, deals with the ambiguities that haunt all survivors. She cuts through complex scientific data and tells us what the data imply for us. She handles this difficult information on all levels: emotional, social and intellectual. As the Hotline Director at SHARE: Self-help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer, I consider this book a 'must read' for all Hotline Volunteers and for any survivor who is experiencing post treatment anxiety.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    Breast Cancer Survivors Share Their Experiences

    It is always reassuring for each of us diagnosed with breast cancer to know that she (or he) is not alone on this journey. Musa Mayer's book does just that for the increasing numbers of breast cancer survivors who are coping with the overwhelming relief and associated sadness and uncertainty that come after our treatment is done and we are set free to reclaim our lives away from oncologists and surgeons, nurses, tests and instruments.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2003

    After Breast Cancer - A MUST Read

    If breast cancer has in anyway touched your life then you owe it to yourself to read this book. Ms. Mayer, with compassion and understanding, delves into life and living after a diagnosis of breast cancer

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