The Mighty Logo

26 Parts of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis That 'Shocked' People the Most

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Each year an estimated 230,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

And though October is famous for pink ribbons and breast cancer awareness galore, it is difficult to fully understand what comes along with a diagnosis if you haven’t been affected. So The Mighty teamed up with NBCF to ask their community what shocked them the most about a breast cancer diagnosis in their family. NBCF offers a free online community to help breast cancer patients and their loved ones move Beyond the Shock.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate.” — Deb Braffman


2. “All the great stories from people who beat this.” — Cindy Gutterson

3. “It just totally turns everything upside down and [it takes a long time] to start to feel like you have some kind of control.” — Debra Harper

4. “Women’s strength and unity.” — Ellyn Krum-Wexler-Klein


5. “I was the fourth of eight sisters to get breast cancer. The 1-in-8 theory doesn’t ring true for my family. It’s 1 of every 2.” — Mary Bettinger Mueller

6. “I got it with no family history!” — Angie Bailey Hanck


7. “It shocked me that this is the third time I’ve had breast cancer.” — Blanche Martin Galli 

8. “When my little sister was diagnosed it was shocking that it was happening in our family. You go along blithely thinking it happens to other people. The reality is most shocking of all.” — Judy Chance

9. “What shocked me? I think for me my life changed in an instant. I no longer felt invincible. I thought differently, I felt differently… And wondered what was in store for me.” — Jodi Nelson Doyle


10. “The fact that I thought I was healthy! And the biggest shocker was the lack of support I got from certain family and friends. Some so-called friends and family pretty much disappeared.” — Christy George 

11. “It can happen to anyone.” —Ludy Shaheen

12. “It impacts your every thought, and you will never again have peace of mind.” — Andrea Llewellyn


13. “I thought I could still be the strong person I always was. Wrong. I suffered depression horribly after my double mastectomy. I think it was because I didn’t have the physical and emotional strength I was used to. It was a long road to feeling ‘normal’ again. I still am not sure what normal is. But as of today I have returned to what I think is normal. I no longer worry about the little things and focus on the important things in life. I am much more at peace with myself.” — Trish Keim Strohman 

14. “It turns you upside down and sends you on a roller coaster of emotions and pain.” — Kim Penny 

15. “Being diagnosed at 28 years old…” — Nicole Leiker


16. “What shocked me the most was learning that my mom would be bald (and beautiful) on my wedding day, and how neither of us or anyone else could have imagined it being that way. Watching her first cut her hair short, and then have it shaved off completely, really moved me. It forced her to be so strong (amidst many other things happening); it was infectious. I donated 12 inches of my hair in honor of her, in hopes that it would change the life of someone going through the same thing. The whole process has altered my life forever. You truly never know what people are going through.” — Morgan Davis

17. “Having breast cancer twice was a wake up call for me. The first time I was in shock, went into treatment and thought I was done. Then six months later it appeared again and I wondered why me and what am I doing wrong in my life? Breast cancer brought me closer to my son and made me fight harder than anything in my life because I wanted to live and had unfinished business.” — Lisa Patrice Osborne-Anderson 

18. “How absolutely terrified I would be but how much love I would find myself surrounded by from family, friends and neighbors. How much having cancer becomes like a full time job with all the research, doctors appointments, etc., and realizing how many people were there to help.” — Lauren McCollum


19. “Telling my family.” — Janice Richardson

20. “What has surprised me the most is that my life has changed in many positive ways. Don’t get me wrong, a breast cancer diagnosis is shocking and scary. However, I have learned so much along the way and look at life very differently now. I liken it to getting a one-way ticket someplace, with no return available. I have embraced the journey this one-way ticket has taken me on.” — Alison Drake

21. “It changes your life in an instant. One day you’re living life normally and the next day you are completely overwhelmed with various emotions. I discovered that I was much stronger than I thought.” — Ede Young


22. “What has shocked me the most is how it changed me forever for the better. I cherish life more and it brought our family closer. I had wonderful support, I am cancer free and a bonus is we had a major wake up and love each other more and cherish our lives that God gave us in a higher dimension.” — Terrilee Steves


23. “How hard it has been on my family.” — Terri Carruth

24. “The relatives who were not so friendly to me have become great friends of mine and the relatives I thought would be great friends to me have abandoned me.” — Lorraine Bailey


25. “How much it can change your life forever. You read glowing stories of people who run marathons and become motivational speakers and somehow, they all seem to have such wonderful and much better lives because they had cancer. Then you find out that it’s not necessarily the way things will turn out for the majority of us. I knew I would do anything I had to do to still be here, but I believed my life would eventually return to normal and I’d be back to the ‘old me.’ It bothered me a lot when I discovered that wasn’t so and that no one had bothered to let any of us survivors know.” —Paula Owensby 

26. “Life goes on. Although I felt like mine ended, I soon realized it goes on with or without you. So get up each day and live!” — Kym Duran-Salas

National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) was founded in 1991 by breast cancer survivor, Janelle Hail. NBCF is Helping Women Now ® in all 50 U.S. states through early detection, breast cancer education, and support services.

Originally published: October 28, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home