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7 things I wish I had known when I was diagnosed with breast cancer
Written by: Krissy White
December 2, 2019 is the day my world stopped spinning. That is the day I got the phone call no one ever wants to receive with the news no one wants to hear. It’s the day my life was split in 2 parts: BC (before cancer) & life after cancer, and nothing would ever be the same. I will never be the same. I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, better known as breast cancer. There was so much I didn’t know. So, I have decided to use my story for good. To help others. To spread awareness & hope. And to offer support and guidance to all the newly diagnosed.
When you are first diagnosed it’s like someone just handed you a bomb and your whole life just shatters around you. You are left completely overwhelmed and lost. So much information is thrown at you and it feels like it’s all in another language. There is just so much I didn’t know. So, I came up with a list of 7 things I wish I had known. Obviously there is probably 5,844,864 more but let’s start with 7. This short list will absolutely help anyone newly diagnosed or someone who knows someone newly diagnosed.
1. Their story isn’t your story. Every diagnosis is different. There are so many factors that go into it like where the tumor is located, how big it is, how fast it’s growing, the stage, what’s feeding it & whether the cancer is in your lymph nodes or anywhere else. After you have a complete diagnosis, then comes the treatment plan. There are as many treatment plans as there are stars in the sky. No two are alike. I’ve had friends that just had a mastectomy, friends that just had chemo and then there is me that had ALL the things. You just have to trust your oncologist and medical team but also know you are absolutely allowed to get a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th opinion. Just don’t try to compare your journey to someone else’s. It will make your head hurt.
2. Cancer is a life sentence. If follows you forever and changes your life completely. When I was first diagnosed I thought “ok, so I’ll have some chemo, maybe a surgery or 2 and be done.” WRONG! I fought hard for 18 months. I did 16 rounds of chemo, double mastectomy, lymph node dissection (had to go back in to remove more lymph nodes), 28 rounds of radiation, oophorectomy (ovaries & tubes removed), reconstruction & now have to take a pill for 10 years and have an infusion every 6 months. I will always have follow up scans & appointments as well as pills to take. I also have to take a handful of pills/supplements to counteract the pill I take for 10 years. Not only that but now I have to click the “history of cancer” box on every medical form for the rest of my life, and my kids will, too. Cancer will be a part of me for life.
3. Don’t blame yourself. You didn’t catch cancer. Nothing you did, didn’t do, ate, drank or thought about gave you cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are young/old, rich/poor, fat/skinny, tall, blonde, healthy, a fast runner, good at math or anything else! Just by being a female your risk is 1 in 8. You can work out everyday, eat healthy, smear yourself down in essential oils, take all the supplements and still get cancer. Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent it.
4. It’s not a free boob job. I get it. It’s a joke. It’s meant to be light hearted and maybe make you laugh but nothing about cancer is funny. We all had to make hard decisions. Decisions to have parts of our body cut off or out to live. I basically had everything removed that makes me a woman and will never be of feel whole again. Yes, I got a “free boob job” but nothing about it was free. I paid a hefty hefty price physically, mentally, emotionally and financially just to look “normal” on the outside. This is just one of the things I thought was okay before I was diagnosed. Unless someone tells you, you don’t know. So, I’m telling you.
5. The pink ribbon. Ask any fighter or survivor their thought on the pink ribbon and they will all say the same. They have a love/hate relationship with it. Part of me loves it because it helps raise awareness and shows support however it’s also a constant reminder of everything you went through. Cancer is awful, evil & ugly. It’s definitely not pretty and nothing about it is pink. Sometimes I think that slapping a pink ribbon on it makes you think it’s not as bad as it is. Also, did you know that 100,000’s of companies capitalize on pink to sell products but most of the time ZERO (or almost zero) of the funds actually go to research or breast cancer support? Please investigate all BC or pink purchases to ensure at least 5% of proceeds go to a credible organization.
6. What to get someone who was just diagnosed or your friend that’s fighting? Make sure they feel loved & support. Check on them, keep inviting them, offer to pick up things or watch the kids. Also, 2 words - gift cards!! Chemo steals your tastebuds and also makes you queasy so you never know what is going to sound good and when so I HIGHLY recommend DoorDash or Uber eats gift cards. Also thank you cards and stamps are an awesome gift. I would stay away from pink ribbon things. You don’t want to be a pink ribbon walking billboard for cancer. Blankets, journals, water bottles and socks are all great but those are the common go-to’s (especially when you ask Google or Pinterest 🤣) so maybe feel them out to see if they already received 17 blankets before you purchase. A maid to clean their house or do their laundry would be amazing. The biggest thing I can say is, instead of the normal “please let me know if I can do anything,” just DO IT. “Hey I’m sending you dinner, what would you like?” or “I am going to the liquor store, what do you want?” Things like that are amazing!
7. Attitude and activity. Attitude is everything! I was told by SO many people that the way I handled my situation was inspiring. I am just a normal hot mess mom just taking it day by day and trying to keep my promise to my kids to life as normal as possible. Don’t get me wrong, it 100% sucked. There is no part of cancer that is fun however being negative and complaining doesn’t help at all, so why bother. I was chosen, not condemned. God has a bigger plan and sometimes you don’t understand. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other 'til you get through the darkness. Also I 100% attribute me staying active to making my journey look “easy”. Believe me, it was far from it but it could have been SO much worse. All my doctors were shocked at how well and quickly I rebounded after all my surgeries. I’m not a sitter, a layer, a napper. I am a mover & a never sit downer. I was told to do whatever I felt like I could so I ran and when I could no longer run, I walked. A lot! I was up walking 2 days after my double mastectomy. Were their days I wanted to lay in bed, absolutely and you have to listen to your body. The more active I stayed the better I felt and I had to keep going for my family. Lucky for me I fought cancer through a pandemic & quarantine so I had PLENTY of time to walk!!
These are just a few things I thought I would share to help educate and spread awareness. Pink ribbons & fuzzy aside, if you truly want to honor someone who has fought breast cancer or who is currently fighting, then schedule a mammogram and encourage everyone around you to do the same. That is what truly matters and what makes the biggest difference. Early detection is key. Treatment and research have come a long way even though we still have a WAYS to go. Keep fighting, keep getting your mammograms and most of all KEEP LIVING your LIFE 💗