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Supporting breast cancer survivors | Health Beat with Brea Love

A breast cancer survivor is defined as a person who was diagnosed with the disease at any point. Here are ways you can support them in each season.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A breast cancer survivor is defined as a person who was diagnosed with the disease at any point.

"I think it is important during this month to also recognize the breast cancer survivors that are among us," Kaiser Permanente Breast Health Specialists Dr. Claudia De Young said as Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close. "There are women who are in remission or hurt or potentially cured and there are women living with metastatic disease and taking this opportunity to recognize those living with breast cancer, I think is very important."

Survivor Perlita Lopez, a single mother to two boys, was diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer four years ago when she was only 37 years old.

"I think that was probably the hardest thing was being a single mom and having to raise them," Lopez said. "I think that just kind was, you know, it's pretty scary for them."

With the support of her family and her peer navigator through Kaiser Permanente, she made it through six months of Chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. She said having a peer who can relate, explain their experience and show you that things can go good was a big part of your journey. 

Lopez is now a peer navigator herself. She said if you want to support a survivor, just help. Don't wait for them to ask. 

"It's so important to have that," Lopez said. "Whether it's just dropping them off coffee or just sending them a simple text, or just somehow showing your support. It's huge."

Dr. De Young said after survivors get the "all clear," things might not go back to normal right away.

"For a lot of caregivers and friends, the time of finishing treatment can be very celebratory or seemingly celebratory and many women aren't feeling too great to," Dr. De Young said. "They kind of still are fatigued. They may have side effects from treatment. So it can be a really challenging time in a cancer survivors journey that is sometimes unexpected."

She said doctors can support patients by asking not only about physical health, but mental too. 

"We really just want to make sure that there is open dialogue between the clinician and the cancer survivor, the breast cancer survivor in particular, to just help them transition to a new normal," De Young said. "I think it is important during this month is to also recognize the breast cancer survivors that are among us. There are women who are in remission or hurt or potentially cured and there are women living with metastatic disease and taking this opportunity to recognize those living with breast cancer, I think is very important."

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How one woman's breast cancer's journey impacted her and her family | Health Beat with Brea Love

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