10 Tips and Testimonies on Battling Breast Cancer
Women talk about what helped them fight the deadly disease
In a culture where women are expected to be the glue that holds the families together, it’s no surprise that women struggle with asking for help when it comes to breast cancer.
“I never told my family,” says Regina, 46, who was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2008. “I didn’t tell my three daughters because I was already sick a lot. I was blacking out from headaches and I’d had a stroke before. My kids take it so hard when I’m sick. I couldn’t put them through [breast cancer].”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. In the 27 years since it's inception, breast cancer has become the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Unfortunately, breast cancer does see color. African American women are more likely than white women to die from breast cancer.
In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and so that no woman suffers in silence like Regina, Loop 21 compiled a list of 10 prevention tips and breast cancer survival testimonies.
1. Find a Community of Breast Cancer Survivors
”I volunteer for Reach for Recovery with the American Cancer Society (ACS). I was already doing that by my second [diagnosis]. I immediately called one of my fellow volunteers and told them I was going to need their help. There were several people who had recurrences like I did, so it was helpful to talk to someone who had been through cancer, survived, and had it come back.
Reach out to people. Let people know. Other people want to help you and you need to let them help you. Don’t try to lock yourself away.
If your church wants to fix you dinner, let them do it. You’re going to have ups and downs. That’s just the way it is. But you can get through it.” - Carolyn, 62, diagnosed 1983 and 1993
2. Make Your Annual Breast Exam a Priority
It’s hard enough to remember to schedule the things we enjoy in life, like vacations. If you’re 40 or over, according to the ACS, you should have a mammogram every year. In case you forget, sign up for these helpful email alerts that remind you when it’s time to get your next mammogram here.
3. Utilize the Power of Namaste
”It sounds very cliché but I found a peaceful place [from doing yoga]. I let go of a lot of stuff. That mind body connection was really good. It was good to feel like I had some strength. As I got further into treatment I got weaker and weaker. It was just a beginner’s class, but it was challenging for me. I started to get stronger. It does wonders for your mind to see that you’re getting better and stronger." - Tricia, 45, diagnosed 2010
4. Say ‘No’ to muffin tops!
Getting your body in shape for the beach shouldn’t be the only time you’re concerned with your waistline. According to an ACS study, abdominal fat tissue is strongly associated with type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other health problems. The report claims that the larger your waist, no matter your weight, the greater your risk of dying from cancer. It’s time to start exercising and watching your calorie intake!
5. The DIY Exam
Unlike mammograms, doing a breast self exam (BSE) is free. The ACS recommends that you start in your 20s. They also suggest that you have a doctor review your technique to make sure that you’re doing it properly.
6. It’s the Beauty Within that Counts
”After I found out I had breast cancer, my husband refused to touch me. He never took me to radiation treatments and hardly communicated. After my treatments were finished I discovered his affair and we eventually divorced after 31 years of marriage.
I felt defeated at first and then I realized that this was his problem, not mine. I was a child of God and nothing I could do deserved my husband's affair. I say to any woman who is rejected by their husband, your beauty should come from within. Someone who truly loves you, loves you from the inside out.” - Janice, 63, diagnosed 2001 and 2010
7. Take advantage of free or low cost breast cancer screenings
Unless you live in Utah, all states have laws ensuring that private healthcare plans cover or offer coverage for screening mammograms. Head over to ACS to learn more about paying for breast cancer screenings, here. For those without insurance, Planned Parenthood is another great alternative for women. Find a location near you, here.
8. Keep Your Day Job
”Working kept my mind off my illness and treatments. Plus most of my co-workers did not know I was sick. I chose not to tell a lot of people because I didn’t want to be treated different." - Melinda, 46, diagnosed in 2004
9. Get a Second, Third and Fourth Opinion
”My doctor told me that the tenderness in my breast came from having too much chocolate and caffeine. That’s what I was told for almost a year. My breast would hurt so bad that I would wrap them up in gauze to go to bed at night. Long story short, about a year after that I went back to the doctor and they discovered a mass. They did a biopsy and I didn’t have radiation. I immediately started chemotherapy." - Regina, 46, diagnosed 2008
10. Keep a glass half full attitude
”Having been through this, I’m on the positive side of what cancer has done for me. It has really made me look at what I value in life. I appreciate what I have, including my friends and family. You learn who loves you, which is really nice.” - Tricia, 45, diagnosed 2010
Do you have a breast cancer survival story to share? Each week in October, Loop 21 will feature stories of triumph over breast cancer.