A woman diagnosed with breast cancer shares 10 powerful and amazing life lessons she learned from her cancer diagnosis.

Read the full version of 10 Really Powerful and Amazing Things Cancer Taught Me.

Read the full transcript:

10 Really Powerful and Amazing Things Cancer Taught Me

You can’t live scared.

Surrender to life.

School doesn’t teach you the game of life.

I could change my story at any time.

It’s OK to fall apart.

From the day we are born, we are dying.

There was beauty in my brokenness.

I could never again forget to stay in communication with my soul.

I’m not waiting to die to get my wings.

Cancer didn’t make me a survivor — I always was.

Written By Maimah Karmo


Anyone who been touched by cancer knows it has devastating side effects. The pain and fatigue from countless hours of tests and surgeries, the loss of hair and appetite, and the physical and emotional scars often cause people to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. They may be hesitant to share the reality of their cancer, especially on social media, because they don’t know how others will react.

We wanted to show the reality of cancer, so we partnered with Fuck Cancer, an organization that focuses on prevention, early detection and support for people affected by cancer, to ask readers to share an “honest” photo related to their cancer that they wanted to show on Facebook, but for one reason or another, didn’t.

Here are their photos:

1. “Colon cancer stage 3 last year. This year it came back in a big way in both ovaries (see photo of scans). So now I’m stage 4. I’ve had a colon resection and a total hysterectomy. I’m on chemo but I feel great and nowhere near ready to give up. Fuck Cancer.” -Melissa D.

series of photos of woman with colon cancer

2. “I remember frantically looking for a reference picture of how my surgical wound would look like. And whether there would be a scar. My scar is barely visible today. This image is from earlier this year.” – Madhura S.

woman with thyroid cancer photo of throat surgery

3. “This picture was taken the first day I came back from the hospital. After the surgery, I was so self-conscious I wore a toque everywhere (it helped that it was December). Other than work, I refused to go out anywhere (that cost me a relationship). I even used makeup (oh the amount of awkward looks) to cover the whiteness. It took three years for me to finally be comfortable with my face. I’ve been makeup and toque-free for four years.” – Josh P.

cancer patient scar on face

4. “Breast cancer. You can see my mastectomy scars. And this was only half way through my radiation treatment — the burns were awful!” – Tracy F.

woman with breast cancer mastectomy scars

5. “My husband helping me shave my head. Never shared this picture before, there are worse — the chemo, mastectomy, the radiation — but this photo has a realness to it that still makes me feel… sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes sad. Is that really me? Yes it is, and then I smile and appreciate that I survived.” – Taryn K.

husband shaving wife cancer patient head

6. “Thyroid Cancer. 2006 Marshfield Wisconsin.” – MissiAnn L.

thyroid cancer scar

7. “Diagnosed 8.16.16 at age 32 just when I was getting the hang of being a mommy to our 1-year-old daughter. I’ve had to add the task of learning how to be a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and advocate living with stage 4 cancer. This picture was after one of my most painful chemotherapy sessions that landed me in the hospital. Moral of the story… I survived because I am one of #TheMIGHTY” – Lisa

female cancer patient in hospital bed

8. “That’s the picture I took of my head after the shower when I pulled off most of my hair. I so needed to see…” – Marina T.

female cancer patient head after shower

9. “I had the courage but not the strength at that time in April this year. Robot-assisted surgery, Da Vinci XI.” – Anki H.

cancer patient stomach

10. “After my first surgery, before radiation therapy and then a total laryngectomy! Fuck cancer.” – Mike P.

cancer patient in hospital bed with hat on

11. “This was the picture when I finally realized how bad my hair loss was… and decided I couldn’t avoid shaving it anymore. I was devastated and ashamed. And I realized how incredibly sick I was and looked. Part of me felt like I had done something to deserve it. I tried so hard to be positive about everything, but when I took this picture, because I wanted to see what the back of my head looked like because it was cold, I fell apart. I never shared it because I was afraid it would scare people. And because I still am kind of ashamed. That’s not me. I don’t recognize that person in the picture.” – Joanne E.

cancer patient showing hair loss

12. “The day after my breast cancer tumor was removed from my spine — I was high ASF here.” – Fay Z.

cancer patient standing with walker

13. “When I lost my hair, I couldn’t deny that I had cancer. I felt like I was living in an alternate reality. Looking in the mirror, I did not resemble myself. As time went by, I saw the strength and beauty within me emerge. I realized that I was not my hair, I was not cancer and that no disease would rob me of myself. It was then that the fearless warrior within me began to emerge — strong, authentic and even more alive than before. I’m so thankful that my daughter was by my side. She is my biggest source of inspiration and the love of my life.” – Maimah K.

woman with breast cancer side shot of head

14. “A message to all men: deal with it rather than ignore it.” – Paul F.

cancer patient scar after surgery

15. “My mother after her mastectomy.” – Heidi W.

woman in bed after mastectomy

16. One surgery to the face and 38 hits of radiation. Fuck cancer.” – Kenny M.

cancer patient closeup face surgery

17. “I rarely post pictures of me trying to smile. It just makes me look more crooked. Cancer in my parotid gland also took my facial nerve, leaving my eye unable to blink and face paralyzed. I tell everyone that cancer broke my blinker and smiler. Fuck cancer.” – Vicki L.

cancer mom smiling

18. “Scar from removal of a stage 3 melanoma on my neck. Next picture is about a week or so after.” – Jake W.

before and after photo man with stage 3 melanoma

19. “Couldn’t stand my hair coming out in handfuls after my first chemo treatment back in March so had my daughter cut it off. Sad day for me. I had an easier time cutting my boobs off than I did my hair and I still miss my hair more than my boobs, too. Fuck cancer!” – Emily U.

cancer patient holding hair

20. “Hours after my radical hysterectomy — catheter in, swollen, full belly and numb left leg.” – Lauren L.

cancer patient after surgery

21. “Misery is a freshly-inserted NG tube.” – Siobhan D.

cancer patient with NG tube

22. “I posted this picture, took it down, posted it again and I’m not sure where it is now. This was me at 16 years old, seven years ago, no makeup, no anything. Sick and lying in bed. It bothered me because I can see how unhappy I am in this picture, and how ugly I feel. What bothers me most is that after cancer, with my head full of hair, smiles and makeup, I look at this picture and realize I still feel this way about myself at least once a day. The teenager in that picture is a part of my self-image forever. There’s a My Chemical Romance song called “Cancer” where he sings, ‘Know that I will never marry, baby, I’m just soggy from the chemo,’ and this picture is that feeling. Seven years out, between the joyful moments of being happy to be alive, I still get that feeling.” – Rachel T.

bald female cancer patient

We want to hear from you. Do you have an “honest” photo related to your cancer experience that you wanted to share with others, but didn’t? Share in the comments below.

For those of us who have faced cancer in the past or present, sometimes there are simply no words to describe the vivid memories and how they leave us feeling. It’s not easy to take a whirlwind of emotions and situations and bottle them into a single word or phrase. But music often has the power do just that.

We asked our cancer community to share the lines from songs that describe their own, or a loved one’s, cancer experience. Maybe you’ll discover a few to add to your own personal playlist.

Here are the lines they shared:

1. “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” by Martina McBride

“Just take my hand, together we can do it/ I’m gonna love you through it.” 

Submitted by Kaylee O.

2. “Stand By You” by Rachel Platten

“I’ll walk through hell with you/ Love, you’re not alone.” 

Submitted by Bunga R.

3.  “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers

“But I would walk 500 miles/ And I would walk 500 more/ Just to be the man who walks 1000 miles/ To fall down at your door.” 

Submitted by  Chris R. (About her husband)

4. “Hall of Fame” by The Script feat. Will.i.Am

“You can walk straight through hell with a smile.” 

Submitted by Cyndi H. (About her son, Drew)

5. “I Would Trade” by Clarensau

“Another night in the waiting room/ You’re 50 feet from me, I still miss you.” 

Submitted by Simone T. (About her baby girl)

6. “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree

“You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold/ You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard/  You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger/ You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm/ You gotta stay together.” 

Submitted by Krystal L.

7.“Head Above Water” by Theory of a Deadman

“You try to keep your head above water/ It’s never been harder/ Even when it feels hopeless/ You’re gonna get through this.” 

Submitted by Kim P. (About her husband)

8. “The Dance” by Garth Brooks

“I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.” 

Submitted by Joan L.

9. “Skin (Sarabeth)” by Rascal Flatts

“She dreams she’s dancing/ Around and around without any cares/ And her very first love is holding her close/ And a soft wind is blowing her hair.” 

Submitted by Kate N.

10. “Vanilla Twilight” by Owl City

“Oh if my voice could reach back through the past/ I’d whisper in your ear/ Oh, darling, I wish you were here.” 

Submitted by Colleen S.

11. “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” by Meatloaf

“You’ve been through the fires of hell/ And I know you’ve got the ashes to prove it.” 

Submitted by Ron S.

12.  “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce

“If I could save time in a bottle/ The first thing that I’d like to do/ Is to save every day/ ‘Til eternity passes away/ Just to spend them with you.” 

Submitted by Judy C.

13. “Roar” by Katy Perry

“You held me down, but I got up (hey!)/ Already brushing off the dust/ You hear my voice, your hear that sound/ Like thunder, gonna shake your ground/ You held me down, but I got up/ Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough/ I see it all, I see it now.” 

Submitted by Amanda H. (About her son)

14. “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons

“I’m radioactive, radioactive.”

 Submitted by Tamara S.

15. “I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Ben

“I will not bow/ I will not break.” 

Submitted by Michelle H.

16. “Walk” by Foo Fighters

“Set me free, again/ To keep alive, a moment at a time/ That’s still inside, a whisper to a riot/ The sacrifice, the knowing to survive/ The first decline, another state of mind/ I’m on my knees, I’m praying for a sign/ Forever, whenever, I never wanna die.” 

Submitted by Jill B. (In honor of her son, Jackson, malignant brain tumor survivor)

17. “Throwback (Remix)” by Usher

“Time is against me/ You never miss something ‘til it’s gone/ That’s my word, ma, you convinced me/ It might not happen, but I’m still hoping.” 

Submitted by Michele B. (About her son)

18.  “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

“This is my fight song/ Take back my life song/ Prove I’m alright song.” 

Submitted by Jennifer M. (I know the words are for another situation but my husband had it playing as I walked into a surprise party he planned — himself — and threw for me to celebrate my remission. I cry when every time I hear that song. Every. Single. Time.)

19. “Praying” by Kesha

“I’m proud of who I am/ No more monsters, I can breathe again/ And you said that I was done/ Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come.” 

Submitted by Kerianne D.

20. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheehan

“When your legs don’t work like they used to before” (Using a walker for several months after surgery)/ “When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades.” (Hair loss, chemo brain) 

Submitted by Julieann S.

Do you have a line from a song that you’d like to add? Share it in the comments below.

In early March my incredible mum passed away. She’d been diagnosed with cancer 18 months before and had fought a brave and strong battle. This woman was like superwoman — nothing would stop her powering on as usual. She even took chemotherapy in her stride, feeling “a little tired” but never complaining.

She’d become weaker and weaker over a matter of weeks, and deep down we knew it was a path to the end of her life with us.

The evening before she passed she’d gone to sleep and didn’t wake up. So on the morning of her passing we called close friends and family to come and say good-bye. Mum continued to sleep upstairs, and I sat downstairs with her friends while her nurse made sure she was comfortable. Incredibly she’d had no pain killers and showed no signs of being in pain.

I looked at the clock at 11:11 p.m. and decided to go upstairs where my sister and my brother-in-law were sitting with Mum. It was at that moment, Mum’s breathing got faster and then, after a succession of big breathes, she took her last.

What followed after this is my main reason for this post. Yes, there were tears and immense sadness, and the most unbearable feeling of numbness. But what occurred to me was what an incredible privilege it had been to be with someone as they left this life.

In the same way as seeing someone being born, it is such an enormously special event. I find it almost impossible to describe, but it made me feel so close to not only my mother, but also to my sister and brother-in-law. It was a situation that could never be repeated and was so important to us all.

There was a gentle calm to the air and a delicate silence that seemed to go on for ever.

Everything that had ever happened to my mum and with my mum had come together in those last final moments. There was nothing else that mattered in the slightest at that time. All that mattered was that we were there with mum to make certain she left the life with all of our love.

And I believe she did.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by sanjagrujic

On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) suggested John McCain’s (R-AZ) cancer had an effect on his vote against the GOP’s proposed “skinny” repeal of Obamacare.

McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, last month. He returned to Congress 11 days after a routine procedure to remove a blood clot above his left eye at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.

In an interview on Chicago’s Morning Answer, Johnson said, “I’m not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now, that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in.”

Surprised by Johnson’s comments, the program’s host asked Johnson whether he thought cancer “played a factor in his judgment call.” To which Johnson replied:

Again, I don’t know exactly what — we really thought that — and again I don’t want speak for any senator. I really thought John was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night.

By about 1, 1:30, he voted no, so you’d have talk to John for what was on his mind.

On Wednesday, Johnson issued a statement regarding his remarks. “I’m disappointed I didn’t more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through. I have nothing but respect for him and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone.”

McCain spokeswoman Julie Tarallo followed up on Johnson’s comments with CNN stating, “It is bizarre and deeply unfortunate that Senator Johnson would question the judgment of a colleague and friend. Senator McCain has been very open and clear about the reasons for his vote.”

“I will not vote for this bill as it is today,” McCain said in a speech following the first motion to proceed with repealing Obamacare. “It’s a shell of a bill right now, we all know that.”

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” McCain added, ending his speech with a call for both parties to come together on a bill that would pass with bipartisan support.

If you’re a patient undergoing chemotherapy, blood transfusions or IV fluid therapy, or know someone who is, you’ve probably become all too familiar with what a PICC line is. PICC stands for “peripherally inserted central catheter,” and the name pretty much says it all. It’s a thin, soft flexible tube that is inserted into a patient’s arm to administer IV medications. Rather than endure the constant prick of a needle, PICC lines are much more comfortable and create less irritating side effects for veins and blood vessels.

PICC stands for “peripherally inserted central catheter,” and the name pretty much says it all. It’s a thin, soft flexible tube that is inserted into a patient’s arm to administer IV medications. Rather than endure the constant prick of a needle, PICC lines are much more comfortable and create less irritating side effects for veins and blood vessels.

Although PICC lines are extremely valuable, they aren’t the most fashionable or attractive things to wear. Thankfully, some fashion-savvy folks have come up with some cool and creative ways to cover up these PICC lines. Here are seven cool PICC line cover companies you should know about.

1. Mighty Well

A post shared by Mighty Well (@mightywell_) on

Mighty Well was founded by Emily Levy after she was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease during her sophomore year of college. At the time, she was told to protect her PICC line by wearing a cut-off sock. Levy’s first thought was, “A sock?!” Her next thoughts prompted the PICCPerfect Picc Line Cover, which then led to the creation of her company.

All of Mighty Well’s PICC line covers come in cool designs and different sizes, and you can also buy them in bundles.

Buy the PICCPerfect Picc Line Cover in Dalal for $29.95.

2. Aya Covers

A post shared by Lisa Thompson (@ayacovers) on

Aya Covers was created in 2006 after owner Lisa Thompson was diagnosed with cancer. She was disappointed that she couldn’t find anything cool to cover her PICC line, so she came up with the idea to create fashionable and comfortable sleeve covers. It didn’t take much to convince designer Kristy Gough to hop on board, as she knew Thompson would pour her heart and soul into each product.

In addition to PICC line covers, the company also sells slouch hats, scarf hats and head huggers for cancer patients.

Buy either PICC Line Cover for $12.00.


pediatric cancer child eating ice cream wearing sleevie

Photo via Etsy

Mother of three Caroline Chang decided to get creative after her son Wes was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma at 15 months old. She wanted a way for Wes to keep the IV tubes from dangling on his arms, so she created PICC line sleevies “for kids who ROCK a PICC line!” Once other parents saw what she had done, they were asking for sleevies for their own children, so Chang opened her PICCSTAR Etsy shop.

The sleevies are created from recycled socks and feature cool characters like Dory, Hello Kitty, Yoda, My Little Pony and other designs.

Buy the PICC line sleevie Wes is wearing for $7.00.

4. Care+Wear

A post shared by Care+Wear (@careandwear) on

The New York-based Care+Wear company was created in 2014 after founders Chaitenya Razdan and Susan Jones noticed a friend having trouble with his PICC line during chemotherapy. It was uncomfortable, ugly and just plain difficult to put a sock over his tubes, so Razdan and Jones recognized an opportunity to design something that could help all PICC-wearing patients. They collaborated with patients and healthcare professionals to create the PICC Line Cover, a soft, antimicrobial and easily-breathable cover for patients.

The covers come in cool colors and designs, and there’s even an MLB line (as Razdan has been a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan his entire life).

Buy the New York Mets PICC Line Cover for $35.

5. WildHeartYarnings

heart Crochet Picc Line Cover

Photo via Etsy

“I create, therefore I AM. (And it makes me happy.)” That’s the motto of WildHeartYarnings Etsy store owner, Pamela. She’s an IV therapy nurse by profession, but in her free time, she loves to fill her world with yarn and crocket hooks. She knits pretty much everything, including hats, scarves, purses, gloves and custom made-to-order Crochet PICC Covers. These PICC covers were inspired by the patients she works with who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment and long-term antibiotic therapy.

Pamela can customize all her embroidery — whether you prefer owls and birds to hearts and flowers — and she proudly states that most of the yarn she uses is rescued and recycled.

Buy the Arrow Through the Heart Crochet PICC Cover for $16.

6. Cast Cover Fashions

Pretty cool to get a shout-out for your product from Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, right? That’s what happened to Cast Cover Fashions in 2012, which lead to a host of other celebrities wearing and endorsing the product. Cast Cover Fashions was created in 2006, before its celebrity status, after the founder’s child broke an arm, prompting her to want to create something more colorful than the traditional “white and off-white” cast colors. The PICC Cover line was added to the collection in 2011.

The company offers a variety of arm cast, leg cast, brace and PICC line covers in a variety of colors and designs.

Buy the Pink Safari PICC Line Cover for $17.99.

7. Coffee and Thread

what design PICC line cover

Photo via Etsy

This Pennsylvania-based Etsy shop was created by Steph, a laboratory scientist who loves coffee, sewing and cats. In fact, her shop’s “Executive Distraction Kitty” is her very own furry feline, Belkin. Each semi-shirred PICC line arm band made by Coffee and Thread is custom made-to-order, and you can choose from a ton of solid colors and designs. The semi-shirred design allows for more breathability, but you can also get fully-shirred bands.

Buy the Whale Semi-Shirred PICC Line Arm Band for $12.00.

Have a PICC line cover you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.