Coping with Breast Cancer in the Family Video

Marisa Renee Lee, founder and president of The Pink Agenda, talks about how she coped with the fact that her mother had breast cancer.
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Marisa Renee Lee: I am a crazy Type A personality. Some people might call me a control freak, definitely a little bit of an overachiever and when faced with anything, whether it’s what am I going to wear to work tomorrow to my mom’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer; she already has MS; what are we doing here; I need to come up with a plan. I need a plan. I need an Excel spreadsheet. I need different tabs. I maybe will need it to be color coded. I take it very, very seriously. I was always very realistic throughout this process and I tried as hard as I could to find logic and not necessarily control but okay, there are always things that we can control and what are the things that I can control here? I am not an oncologist. I am not a researcher. I am not God. I can’t take this away and I’m not going to pray for a cure that she’s all of a sudden going to wake up one day and not have cancer because to me that’s not practical. I’m going to pray for resources. I’m going to pray that we somehow find the best doctors at home. I’m going to call every doctor that I know and make sure that the oncologist that we have is the best one in this county. I’m going to pray that we find the best doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering because she’s going to be going there as well. She will not be seen by just one oncologist. That was not acceptable to me, clearly. I am going to pray that somehow she is going to do okay emotionally and psychologically through this process. I’m going to pray that she doesn’t lose her hair because we’re very vain and I know if she loses her hair, she’s going to be really upset. I’m going to pray that she doesn’t gain any weight because if she starts to gain weight that’s going to be another serious problem for her. I’m going to make sure that she and my father have plenty of meals, that things are really organized, that we have a master calendar with all of the doctors’ appointments and even days when my dad’s taking off work to go fishing and give himself a break. I’m going to try and find someone to mow the lawn every once in a while so that my dad has one less thing to worry about on the weekends and can spend time with her. I’m going to figure out a schedule for when she has to be in the hospital, who’s going to stay with her because she doesn’t like to stay in the hospital by herself and I feel like care is better when someone else is there to advocate on your behalf at all times even if that means me spending the night at Sloan. Taking the train downtown to my apartment in SoHo, taking a shower, getting dressed and getting into the office at 10. These are the things that I can control and those are what I’m going to do How are you coping today? Marisa Renee Lee: It varies. There are good days and there are bad days. I tried really hard to get back into the city and get back into things as quickly as possible because I know that that’s something that she would have wanted and I felt a personal responsibility both to my coworkers because we were doing a lot of time and more importantly, to this organization. How can we support a loved one through breast cancer? Marisa Renee Lee: One of my friends mom is getting a breast cancer, literally gives me goose bumps and unfortunately, just because of the numbers, the odds of that happening are fairly likely. I would advice them to both be supportive and available from the emotional perspective but also, from a practical perspective. Remember, the practical things and think about what you need to manage your day-to-day life and how that person isn’t thinking about those things. Remember that that person is being consumed with all of these weird emotional stuff and also, trying to take care of their parents and they aren’t thinking about taking care of themselves. My friends were insistent that I try to workout and continue going to the gym. I was one of those three to five days a week, get up at six, gym routine people and I dressed. I was falling out of it because I

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