Buddy to Buddy: Survivors adjust back to normal

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - When soldiers return home from battle, they often have a hard time re-adjusting to their previous lives. The same can be said for someone who's just been through a battle with a life-threatening disease, such as breast cancer.

Stephanie Freeman knows first-hand how hard it is for a survivor to resume life as usual. In 2009 she was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer.

After months of intense treatment... with one appointment after another... It all abruptly ended... and it was back to her life as mother, wife and registered nurse... A jarring change for most patients.

"Once active treatment is over, the healthcare community steps back and they feel lost"

Plus... There are all those emotions patients put on hold to fight the brave fight. After getting through it herself... Stephanie decided she had a calling to help others do the same. And last year, she founded a brand new program at Maine Med's Breast Care Center in Scarborough to offer the post-treatment support survivors need.

It's called the Bridges Survivorship Program. Stephanie meets with survivors one-on-one and in groups to help them make that transition from a life focused almost entirely on treatment and getting well... to the life that survivors once were living, but is forever changed

Among the things Stephanie tells the patients she works with:

--Adjust your expectations. You're not likely to have the energy you did before... So don't expect to keep up the same pace.
--Keep a journal to have an outlet for your emotions.
--Reach out and ask for help... Whether it's from family, friends, a counselor or a program like "bridges".
--And finally, be patient with yourself.

She says "Women don't want to hear this, but it takes a year. A solid year. Or longer."

A long road... To proudly wear the badge of... "survivor".


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