From how to deal with “why me” thoughts to handling fertility and egg freezing, these initial reactions show what a breast cancer diagnosis really feels like.
More than 268,000 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in America in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society. And as these women can attest, nothing quite prepares you for hearing those (often very unexpected) words: You have cancer.
Here’s a look at how these women reacted to, coped with, and bounced back to hearing their life-changing diagnosis.
It’s like a ton of bricks coming down
“Bam—you’re told you have breast cancer, and it’s like this ton of bricks comes down and you feel like your body has just completely deceived you.”
—Lisa, diagnosed at 46
Shock: There’s no other word for it
“I remember getting the first phone call that went something like, ‘You need to come in and you need to bring your husband.’ Based on that phone call, you go in there knowing that something is not right. I remember it like I was there yesterday: shock, surreal, disappointment. Shock—there’s no other word for it. Maybe it was my age, but we were shocked.”
—Nicole, diagnosed at 36
What the magazines say isn’t everything
“You read magazines and everyone says eat healthy, don’t drink too much, exercise, breastfeed your kids, don’t smoke. I could check every box in that article and I got breast cancer.”
—Jamie diagnosed at 46
Being healthy doesn’t mean you’re safe
“I was so broadsided because I was so healthy. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.”
—Christine, diagnosed at 42
Let’s get it out now
“Those words were ringing in my ear when he said: ‘You have breast cancer.’ I said that’s not me. I’m athletic, I eat well, I live well. Why me, why do I have that? I said, ‘Let’s get it out now. Just take it out.’”
—Leslie, diagnosed at 44
Making plans for your life is a joke
“The biggest thing cancer taught me is that making plans for your life is kind of a joke. I had big plans when I was younger and growing up. I had a timeline of when I wanted what done. Cancer changed all of that.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31
I couldn’t let myself think “Why me?”
“I didn’t think ‘Why me?’ was going to get me any answer that would help me actually fight cancer. The thing I kept saying to myself was, ‘I don’t get to choose cancer, but I get to choose how I react to it.’”
—Sally, diagnosed at 40
I have to fight it
“I did at first think, ‘Why me?’ And then I had to readjust my thinking and just think, ‘It is what it is now. I have to fight it.’”
—Alyssa, diagnosed at 23
I’ll never get to breastfeed
“I’ve been a NICU nurse for most of my life, and I’ve encouraged moms to breastfeed. I just eliminated that possibility for myself, and that was really, really difficult. That is something I constantly think about and struggle with. But then I think, ‘I’m going to be alive for my child.’ And that’s what’s important and what matters.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31
No one tells you about the fertility part
“It’s important to say, because I didn’t know. That it could affect fertility.”
—Nicole, diagnosed at 36
You have to think about egg freezing
“I had my eggs frozen. We’re hopeful we won’t have to use those and we’ll be able to have a child naturally, but there’s always that chance that we won’t be able to.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31
You won’t know how you feel about losing a breast
“Losing a breast is very psychologically burdensome, because a breast represents the cycle of life. In my case, the chemotherapy made the choice for me. I couldn’t be a mom. There were a lot of psychological twists to it. But I think if you keep your eye on the ball and you say, ‘You know what? I’m here.’ And you turn it into positivity and try to help others, then my diagnosis wasn’t in vain.”
—Theresa, diagnosed at 42
A very special thanks to Susan G. Komen Greater New York City.
00:00.305 --> 00:03.530
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And then bam,
you're told you have breast cancer,
00:08.382 --> 00:11.690
and this ton of bricks comes down and
00:11.690 --> 00:17.433
you feel like you're body has
just completely deceived you.
00:17.433 --> 00:21.984
00:21.984 --> 00:25.274
So I remember getting the first
phone call that went something like,
00:25.274 --> 00:27.840
you need to come in and
you need to bring your husband.
00:28.880 --> 00:33.990
So based on that phone call, you go in
there knowing that something is not right.
00:33.990 --> 00:37.688
You read magazines and all and
everyone says eat healthy,
00:37.688 --> 00:42.457
don't drink too much, exercise,
breast feed your kids, don't smoke.
00:42.457 --> 00:47.674
And I could check every
box in that article,
00:47.674 --> 00:51.204
and I got breast cancer, so.
00:51.204 --> 00:56.010
I think it was just I was so
broadsided because I was so healthy.
00:56.010 --> 00:57.740
This wasn't supposed to happen to me.
00:58.890 --> 01:01.850
And those words were ringing
in my ear when he said,
01:01.850 --> 01:06.260
you have breast cancer,
because I said, that is not me.
01:06.260 --> 01:10.500
I'm athletic, I eat well, I live well.
01:10.500 --> 01:11.780
And why me?
01:11.780 --> 01:13.610
Why do I have that?
01:13.610 --> 01:17.900
And I said, let's get it out now,
just take it out.
01:17.900 --> 01:21.430
But I think the biggest thing that
cancer taught me is making plans for
01:21.430 --> 01:23.210
your life is kind of a joke.
01:23.210 --> 01:26.410
I mean, I had big plans when
I was younger and growing up.
01:26.410 --> 01:32.520
And I had a timeline of when I wanted what
done, and cancer changed all of that.
01:32.520 --> 01:34.610
I didn't really think that, why me,
01:34.610 --> 01:39.820
was gonna get me any answer that was
gonna help me actually fight cancer.
01:39.820 --> 01:45.010
So the question or
the thing that I kept saying to myself was
01:45.010 --> 01:48.480
I don't get to choose cancer but
I got to choose how I react to it.
01:48.480 --> 01:53.550
I did at first think,
why me, and then I had to
01:53.550 --> 01:58.520
readjust my thinking and just think it is
what it is now and I have to fight it.
01:58.520 --> 02:03.803
I remember it like I was
there yesterday, shock, surreal,
02:03.803 --> 02:09.840
there's no other word for it.
02:09.840 --> 02:14.116
Maybe it was my age, I don't know,
but we were shocked.
02:14.116 --> 02:16.980
I've been a NICU nurse for
most of my life.
02:16.980 --> 02:20.808
I've encouraged moms to breastfeed, and
I just eliminated that possibility for
02:20.808 --> 02:23.207
myself, and that was really,
02:23.207 --> 02:27.878
And that is something I constantly
think about and struggle with, but
02:27.878 --> 02:30.660
I think I am going to be alive for
02:30.660 --> 02:36.016
So ultimately I think that's what
is important and what matters.
02:36.016 --> 02:37.920
I've been through a battle, right.
02:37.920 --> 02:39.243
And I'm here, and
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I got through it in the best way that
I possibly could have ever imagined.
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I got through it so
much better than I could have expected or
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anticipated I would on that morning back
when I was diagnosed, where I literally
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felt like I had been kicked in the stomach
and life as I knew it was over.
02:56.880 --> 03:01.531
So I had my eggs frozen, and we're
hopeful we won't have to use those and
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we'll be able to have a child naturally,
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there's always that chance
that we won't be able to.
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I think it's important to
say because I didn't know,
03:10.832 --> 03:13.374
03:13.374 --> 03:16.370
That it could affect fertility.
03:16.370 --> 03:21.630
And you know losing a breast is very,
it's very psychologically
03:22.860 --> 03:26.800
burdensome because a breast
represents the cycle of life.
03:26.800 --> 03:33.280
And in my case the chemotherapy
made the choice for me.
03:33.280 --> 03:35.260
I couldn't be a mom.
03:35.260 --> 03:39.520
And it's a lot of
psychological twists to it.
03:39.520 --> 03:42.790
But I think if you keep your
eye on the ball, and you say,
03:42.790 --> 03:43.670
you know what, I'm here.
03:43.670 --> 03:49.789
And you turn it into positivity and
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try to help others, then my
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diagnosis wasn't in vain.
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How Common Is Breast Cancer? Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society. (Accessed on March 12, 2019 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html.)