What I Want to Tell the Woman Just Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

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One of my friend’s friends was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a young mom. too. I was trying to think about my first days of diagnosis. What did I need to hear? What did I need to know?

First, I would say this: “You are going to be OK.” I would scream it. “YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK.” I would tell her to make it her mantra. “I am going to be OK… I am going to be OK.”

Is it true? Of course it is. It has to be. I still tell myself this: “I am going to be OK.”

I would tell her that the unbearable sadness, confusion, darkness and the constant feelings of panic won’t last. They can’t. That amount of misery is not sustainable. It feels like it will never lift. People tell you it will, but you don’t believe them. You just numbly nod your head. I remember bawling in the car to my dad the day after I got the call. I remember saying, “My biggest fear is that I will never be happy again. What if I am never happy again? ” My dad cried, too. He didn’t say much. What could he say? What can you promise?

I would promise her. You will be happy again. Is this true? Of course it is. It has to be.

I would tell her to find a doctor she trusted. A doctor who looked her in the eye and made her feel like a woman, a mother, a person, not a statistic. A doctor who could tell her the latest research and information about the disease. A doctor who offered a solid plan, and hope.

And then I would make her promise, make her swear, make her give me her word — that she would never, ever Google breast cancer. Never ever. Those are facts and statistics, and stories about other women. Not about her. Not about her body, her cancer, her story. When you have a question, a fear, a worry, a wonder, a need —  call your doctor. Do not use Google as your Magic 8 Ball. It doesn’t know how your story goes. Say a prayer. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Break a dish. Scream “F*ck!” and hit your pillow. But never, ever Google it.

I would tell her that it is all going to hurt. That your body will not feel like your own. That you will feel broken, and alone, and scared. That you will envy the other women in the grocery store talking on their cell phones and feeding their kids bananas in the cart, with their soft hair swooped up into messy buns. You will envy them, because you know exactly what that ease and normalcy feel like. You will remember, sort of, what it feels like to walk so lightly through your day. You will envy the people who so kindly offer to take your kids so you can rest. You will hear them laughing with your children, and you will cry softly so they don’t hear. You will cry a lot. Sometimes it will be a gentle cry. A peaceful cry. A cry that shows that you are surrendering to this journey. And sometimes it will be an ugly cry, an angry cry. A cry that shows that you hate this journey. A cry that asks why, why, why?

I would tell her to seek out professional help. Go talk to someone who can guide you through your emotions. To someone who will say, “Of course you feel that way.” To someone who will let you accept and own the full range of your emotions. My husband and I got help. Our feelings were validated, we felt heard, and seen. We were given the tools we needed to process each step of the journey.

I would tell her to be vulnerable. I would tell her that the real strength people love to praise is really the strength to show your weakness. To be open, to be a mess, to be scared, and broken, and real. No one needs you to pretend. People will be drawn to your brokenness. There is an unspeakable beauty there. A power that pulls out the best in others. That brings strangers to your aide. That leaves you in awe at the kindness in the world. I would tell her that she will learn the goodness of people if she allows herself to need them.

I would tell her that all attempts to numb the pain are fruitless. That it is easier to feel it all, then to fight it. I would tell her about the metaphor my dad always reminds me of: Life is a river. It is moving and flowing. You can’t cling on to the rock with fear about the rapids. You will get tired and weak. You have to let go. Give in to the current. You will tumble, and fall, and get smashed into rocks by the rapids. And then you will find peace. There are smooth spaces of the river lined with trees, and you will float gently with sunshine on your face. I would tell her to let go.

I wouldn’t ask her about her religion. I wouldn’t say any of the canned phrases people say. I would just squeeze her hand, and say a silent prayer. And hope that she sees God, and feels God, in all of the love that will surround her. I would pray that she would notice the tiny light inside of her that will refuse to go out no matter what setbacks come her way. I would just squeeze her hand. And say a silent prayer.

My stomach would hurt for her. I might cry.

But I would take her hand and squeeze it. I would tell her, “You are going to be OK.”

I would listen to her without judgment and hope that she notices that my hair is growing back. Hope that she remembers that spring always follows winter. Hope that she believes.

Follow this journey on Cancer Made Me Do It.

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: What do you wish you had found on Google when you were first diagnosed? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

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A Letter to My 1-Year-Old Son on My Cancerversary

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This is hard to talk about with you. Not because it’s a secret or it’s shameful, but because I don’t really know what to say. Someday, though, I know you’ll ask, and when you do, I want to be ready to explain it all to you the best I can.

My body is different than other women’s bodies. Where other women have two breasts and two nipples, you’ll see I have just one breast and one nipple. On the other side I have a smooth nippleless bump with a faint scar. We call it a “foob,” and you know what? It’s OK to giggle when you say it. It’s meant to be just a little bit silly. 

You should know that five years ago I was very sick. More sick than a cold or flu. A lot of doctors had to work hard to help me get better. It’s important for you to know that yes, I’m all better now. The sickness I had is called cancer, and while everyone who is sick with cancer has different medicine and treatments, in order for me to get better, my breast had to be removed. In its place, the doctors put in my foob. My foob is sort of like a thick water balloon that looks like a real breast so most people don’t even know it’s there.

In the year since you’ve been born, you’ve learned so much. Each day you show us your excitement, frustration, anticipation, silliness, sadness and utter absolute joy. I know, and someday you will also know, that with all the happy things that happen in our lives, there are sometimes sad things, too.

It’s hard for your dad and me to admit that we can’t protect you from everything awful in this life, and to tell you that we can would be a lie. I also can’t promise that cancer will never again come into the warm walls of our home again because to say that would also be a lie.

I fear for the day you will feel anguish, devastation, loss and grief. It’s inevitable, but I hope that day is many, many days away. Years away. I hope when those feelings are thrust upon you in the hardest moments of your life, you’ll remember my words today.

Like the hardest things in this life, it’s OK if you don’t really understand yet. Actually, I don’t even know if I fully understand yet, either. Even though we may not talk about my cancer very often, you can ask your dad or me questions about it whenever you need to — we will answer those questions.

mother's hand holding baby's hand

It’s important for you to know that sometimes people get sick for no reason, and it’s not because of anything they did, and it’s not because of anything you did, either. Sometimes it just happens, and it’s no one’s fault.

It’s important for you to know that sometimes people die from cancer. Maybe you already knew this, and I don’t want to scare you. I just want to make sure you understand that even though I’m all better now, cancer is very scary, and sometimes people aren’t able to get better.

It’s important for you to know that if your dad or I or anyone else we love is sick with cancer, we will all work as hard as we can to help them feel better. If that ever happens, you can ask us as many questions as you need to — we will answer those questions. It’s OK to cry, and it’s OK to laugh because both are important and both are healthy.

It’s important for you to know that I think the world of you. In the year your dad and I have known you, we can already see you’re a comic like your dad and you’re headstrong like me. These traits will serve you well throughout your life. Stay silly, stay determined.

It’s important for you to know that when sad things happen in our family, we will all come together to help one another. While we can’t protect you from everything bad in this world, we will love you each and every day. When those bad and scary moments happen in your life, I hope you remember that we love you so very, very much.   

You may hear people use the term “cancer survivor.” You should know that your mom is a “breast cancer survivor.” When I was sick with cancer, I discovered that I am strong and I am resilient. I am braver than I ever realized. Even though you may not know it yet, so are you. Today, tomorrow and every day that we are together, we will celebrate our lives. We will celebrate that we are together.

Love Always,

Your Mom

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This Woman's Sister Couldn't Carry a Child After Having Cancer, So She Did It for Her

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When Dawn Ardolino Policastro found out that her twin sister, Allison Ardolino Dinkelacker, was unable to carry a child after undergoing treatment for cancer, she didn’t even hesitate to offer to carry one for her.

In 2009, at the age of 32, Dinkelacker, who lives in Mineola, New York, was 30 weeks into her pregnancy with her first son when she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, Patch.com reported. She needed to start chemotherapy immediately, so at 31 weeks she had an emergency C-section and delivered a healthy boy. She then went on to have 6 months of chemotherapy, 35 rounds of radiation and multiple surgeries.

Dinkelacker has been cancer free for 6 years now and she and her husband decided they wanted to have another child. However, since the cancer was hormone positive, she could not carry another baby herself. That’s when Policastro stepped in and served as a gestational surrogate for Dinkelacker.

 

 

“Dawn accompanied me to one of my doctors appointments and as we sat in my oncologists’ office, he said to me, ‘If you survive this, you will never be able to carry another child,’ Dinkelacker wrote on Facebook, shared by Allison Rose Photography. “Well before he even finished his sentence Dawn jumped in and said, ‘It doesn’t matter because I am going to carry their child.’”

Long time family friend and photographer Allison Rose did a photo shoot with the sisters, which she posted to her Facebook page, Allison Rose Photography, on July 28. Since then, the photos have been shared nearly 15,000 times.

See some of the images from the shoot below: 

 

On August 5 Policastro gave birth to Hudson William Dinkelacker, who weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces and was 20.5 inches long, Patch.com reported.

How can we begin to thank you for the tremendous generosity and sacrifice you have so willingly bestowed these last few months?” wrote Dinkelacker on Facebook, shared by Allison Rose Photography. “You have given us not just the fulfillment of a wish we’ve had for the last six years, but a whole new life, and a family of four we thought we’d never have.”

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Woman Says 'Suck It, Cancer' With Her Own Clothing Line

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In November 2014, Lisa Vanbeek was diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer. Vanbeek, then 37, was blindsided — she had no family history of cancer, had never considered the possibility of a diagnosis and was unsure of what to do first.

So, Vanbeek, a clothing designer, decided to make funny T-shirts emblazoned with the message, “Suck it, cancer” for her friends and family to keep them smiling during the difficult time. Pictures of the shirts then began making the rounds on social media, and people began asking her where they could buy one.

Seeing how strongly the shirts resonated with people, Vanbeek saw an opportunity to turn the enterprise into a fundraising effort.

“Going through this process, I was really overcome by the reality of how much money goes into cancer treatments, screenings, etc., in addition to other everyday expenses like paying for the gas to get to treatments,” Vanbeek, who lives in Pueblo, Colorado, told The Mighty. “Making clothing is what I know how to do, so I decided to turn that into a way to help people who may not have the money for treatment.”

Vanbeek officially launched “Suck It, Cancer,” her sassy new clothing line, in February 2015. Designed to support and invigorate people living with cancer, the clothing features phrases like, “Hey Cancer, you messed with the wrong girls,” and “Sometimes, you just gotta be a badass.” A percentage of every sale Vanbeek makes goes toward She4Life and Cowgirls & Cocktails, grassroot nonprofit organizations that financially support women who have cancer.

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Vanbeek, right, with a friend modeling her clothing line. Photo from the Suck It Cancer Facebook page

Now, the clothing is sold online, at sporting events and, as of August 2015, in a retail store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Vanbeek says one of her favorite outcomes from starting this company has been the stories and emotional reactions she gets from strangers all over the country.

“People have come up to me crying,” she told The Mighty. “To have people get that emotional was unbelievable to me. On the other side, I see people get so happy and excited about it. It started as just making T-shirts, but it’s turned into an attitude.”

Vanbeek completed her final radiation treatment on August 11, 2015. Now, she’s focusing on getting her brand into more retail stores and building her online presence. In turn, she wants to continue to raise money for organizations that help people afford treatment. She also wants to keep people smiling.

But, most important, she wants to inspire people who are living with cancer to keep fighting.

“[I hope] it gives someone a little extra oomph, that kickstart to rally against it and not be taken down by it,” Vanbeek told The Mighty. “If that shirt can make them feel that way for five minutes out of their day, that’s the most important thing.”

Take a look at some designs from Vanbeek’s “Suck It, Cancer” clothing line below.

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From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
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From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
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From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
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From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
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From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page

Hear more about Vanbeek’s story in the video below.

To learn more about Vanbeek’s story and check out her awesome clothing line, visit the Suck It, Cancer website and Facebook page.

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Woman With Cancer Shuts Down Fake ‘Awareness’ Campaign With One Tweet

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The “Hold a Coke With Your Boobs Challenge,” a social media campaign encouraging men and women to share photos of themselves holding a can of coke between their breasts to raise breast cancer awareness, surfaced on Facebook. Hundreds of people participated in the challenge and shared photos of themselves to social media. But soon after it took off, the breast cancer “awareness” campaign was revealed to be a hoax started by Danny Frost, a talent scout for an adult entertainment company, and model Gemma Jaxx, according to Elite Daily. The pair allegedly started the challenge to make fun of campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Many people voiced their concerns over the distasteful prank on social media, among them Aimee Fletcher, a 32-year-old who was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 months ago and was recently diagnosed with bone metastasis, BuzzFeed News reported.

After hearing about the fake challenge while at a funeral for a friend who had died from breast cancer, Fletcher decided to post her own take on the campaign:

Breast cancer is not fun and sexy,” Fletcher told BuzzFeed. “The treatment is grueling… It’s not glamorous and why people decide to take photos of the part of the body that breast cancer destroys is beyond me.”

To learn more about Fletcher’s story, visit her blog.

h/t HuffPost Impact

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How This Woman's 'Boob Picture' May Help Save Lives

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Lisa Royle never thought she’d share a “boob picture” on Facebook, but now, her photo may help save others’ lives.

The 42-year-old mother from Manchester, England, posted the picture below last week to let others see the subtle symptom that helped her detect her breast cancer. In the picture, Royle highlights the small dimples that tipped her off.

Ok so I never thought I'd post a boob picture on Facebook but I thought I would before it gets chopped off next week....

Posted by Lisa Royle on Monday, May 11, 2015

 

“Very subtle dimples underneath that could easily be missed when we’re all rushing round getting ready in a morning,” Royle wrote on Facebook on May 11. “Please take time to look at your boobs. It could save you’re [sic] life.”

In just over a week, her photo was shared more than 64,000 times from her Facebook page.

After visiting a doctor, Royle was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, according to Manchester Evening News. On Monday, she underwent a mastectomy, the outlet reported, and is now in recovery. Next, she’ll receive radiation and chemotherapy.

h/t Yahoo Health

 

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