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Anna’s story: How to reduce anxiety and fear during cancer recovery

Anna was 38 years old when she noticed an alarming lump on her right breast. Initially she wasn’t too worried as according to her doctors, the lump was most probably just a benign tumor. But the lab results revealed that the benign looking lumps — two of them was eventually found — were actually grade 3 breast cancer.

”Waiting for the scan results to know how far the cancer had spread was the most frightening part. After I received the full diagnosis and heard the treatment plan I was back on track and knew what was going on. It is easier to face the fear when it has a name.”

Positive thoughts took over the desperate ones when Anna’s treatments started: ”I had a good feeling since the beginning. I was relieved that something could be done.” The lumps were removed during Anna’s first operation, but it turned out that a bigger operation was needed too. Her whole breast and axillary lymph nodes were removed. After the operation she received chemotherapy and radiation.

”I had a fighting spirit on the whole time, but physically I felt worse after every time I got cytostatic drugs. All in all I got them six times every third week, and after the last one I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even shower for three days”, Anna recalls.

Kaiku Health as part of the support team

For Anna it was important to see her family and friends frequently during the treatments and recovery. Her parents came to Helsinki to help through the first week after every treatment. They helped around the house and prepared her food, so that she could focus all her energy to recovery. Her sister lived in the next building so they met daily, and her friends kept in touch and came to visit her.

Kaiku Health application was in beta-testing when Anna started using it.

”I used Kaiku to record and follow the side effects of my treatments. It helped me mentally to be able to check what kind of symptoms I had previously. I reported to Kaiku how I felt on a daily basis, and felt safe the whole time, because my care team knew all the time how I was doing.”

The possibility to send messages reduced hesitation to contact the care team. According to Anna many of her symptoms, like continuing nausea, were not something that she would have called the clinic about.

”Knowing that my care team will call me back if needed made me feel safe.”

If Anna worried about something in the evening, she contacted her care team in Kaiku Health and got an answer in the morning.

”Once my eyes were hurting so much I couldn’t keep them open. Before going to bed I sent a message to my care team and they called me in the morning, saying that I should immediately visit an ophthalmologist.”

As a beta-user Anna also had an important role in developing Kaiku Health to what it is today.

Enjoying the sparks of life after cancer

After the chemotherapy was over Anna’s condition got better. Even though the radiation was tiring, the side effects were tender compared to cytostatic treatment. Soon she started to feel healthy and strong again.

”My condition is still not exactly the same as before the treatments. I used to run a lot, and I still do, but my pace is slower.”

Despite of the treatments’ late effects Anna goes snowboarding almost every weekend in Switzerland, her new home country.

Anna worked from home throughout her treatment but returned full time to work as soon as the radiotherapy was over. Every now and then she felt anxious and insecure between the follow-up visits to the clinic.

”Two weeks before my control scans I start to have some psychosomatic symptoms, but they always fade after the follow-up. Now exactly two years after finishing the treatment, I still get worried every now and then, but as time has gone by, I have started to feel more at ease. My family is there for me, and they treat me as usual, without any fuss.”

Nowadays Anna still uses Kaiku Health to communicate with her care team when she needs an opinion or an advise.

”Kaiku Health is safer and easier tool for communication than email. In order for the application to work in the best possible way it requires a committed care team. I am grateful for the care and dedication I have received from my medical team.”

Written by Matilda Mela, Trainee at Netmedi

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