What I would Tell My Newly Diagnosed Self: Survivor Reflections

For some, breast cancer is in their “rearview mirror”: treatment is over, the sting of the initial diagnosis has worn off a bit, and visits to the oncologist have become fewer with more time in-between.

We’ve collected the “hindsight” – the wisdom gleaned from experience, time and distance from a breast cancer diagnosis – of these women and offer it below, their answers to the following question posed on social media: If you could tell your newly diagnosed self one thing that you know now or have learned along the way, what would it be?

  • Let people help! I’m a stubborn, do it myself kind of girl and had to eventually admit this, but should have sooner and more!
  • If you continue to work through treatment, learn to let some things go and don’t be too hard on yourself for not being able to “do it all” when you feel crappy.
  • Take care of your mental health too. I can’t stress the importance of this enough.
  • I wish I had kept a more detailed journal of what I was going through physically and emotionally. I think I would appreciate it all so much more now.
  • Take pictures even though it’s hard and use humor- it truly is the best medicine!! Also- if you can- exercise. I ran daily after chemo and it curbed many of the nauseating symptoms!! It was amazing.
  • Take a deep breath…listen to those 25 year survivor volunteers – they give you hope and good advice…be vocal in your treatment and find doctors who you like and trust – they will be in your circle for years…stay positive and surround yourself with positive people – it truly helps.
  • Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily and increase fruits and veggies in your diet. It helps tremendously with treatment side effects.
  • Let go of who you used to be. Cry about what you have lost. Embrace who you are now.
  • Surround yourself by people who will love and support you through it.
  • It’s not easy, but you will get through it. When I went through it there wasn’t Firefly, I sure would had loved to had a guide.
  • Put ice on your hands and feet during chemo…it helps prevent neuropathy.
  • Stay out of the sun, you will blister like nobody’s business. Use the lotion they give you for after radiation and do not use deodorant. If you’re tired take the nap. You can’t power through it. Crying in the shower really does help 5) Hair grows back.
  • Listen to your body…when you are tired rest. Don’t fight it.
  • You’re gonna have a different body on the other side of this. It’s not worse, just different.
  • Wear a sports bra immediately after surgery. Use coca butter lotion during and after radiation. Don’t do any heavy lifting. Do the exercises that your doctor gives you. Follow doctor’s orders.
  • Accept help from people. You have to have a positive mindset but you do not have to do it all alone.

Most of this wisdom is relevant for any trauma, any major life event, and any illness that happens along the way. A huge thank you to those of you who took time to share your insight and wisdom with our Firelfy audience on social media!

Compiled by Amy Tix, Firefly Staffer and breast cancer survivor who would tell her newly diagnosed self to “Get over yourself and ask for help. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It isn’t something to be ashamed of. People want to help. You need the help. Let them.”

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