At Susan G. Komen, we celebrate those who have faced breast cancer every day of the year. But today, the 28th annual National Cancer Survivors Day, got us thinking about everyone who has ever had their world turned upside down by the words, “You have breast cancer.”
Here are eight things we want to make sure you know today, and every day:
1. You Are Not Alone
In fact, you’re in the company of more than 3 million breast cancer survivors just in the United States! And millions of family members and friends who have gone to appointments, cleaned, babysat, cooked, carpooled and so much more while their loved one faced breast cancer. Spread some love today to those who were by your side as you faced breast cancer, and if you start to feel discouraged, check out these powerful stories from women and men who have been right where you are.
2. Life Is Different Now, and That’s OK
Breast cancer survivor and Executive Director of Komen Greater Atlanta, Cati Stone, said it best in one of our recent blogs: “People think it’s ‘life as usual’ after breast cancer. But it’s not.” You’re not the same person you once were. You may have a new appreciation for life or a surprising ability to not sweat the small stuff. You may also need time to recover physically and emotionally, so don’t feel like you have to jump back into all of your activities right away.
3. That Lingering Fear…
… of a breast cancer recurrence is totally normal. After breast cancer treatment ends, many people are afraid they still have cancer or that it will come back. The truth is, breast cancer can recur at the original site, as well as spread to other parts of the body. That’s why it’s critical to visit your health care provider on a regular basis following treatment. There are also certain steps you can take to reduce your risk of a recurrence (#4).
Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise may help reduce your risk of a breast cancer recurrence. One analysis found that breast cancer survivors who got roughly three or more hours of moderate-paced walking a week had a 30 percent lower risk of death (from any cause) compared to less active survivors!
5. For Many, Cancer is the New Reality
Women and men living with metastatic breast cancer don’t have the same treatment options as those who are diagnosed with early-stage disease. For many, the main goals of treatment are to control tumor growth and extend life, while trying not to compromise their quality of life. Metastatic patients need more: more support, more research, more awareness. To date, Komen has invested more than $133 million in over 350 research grants and clinical trials on metastatic breast cancer to understand the biology and find new treatments, while working with the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance and the Health of Women [HOW] Study to improve the lives of those with metastatic disease.
6. There’s Always Something New to Learn
There’s a reason people say, “Knowledge is power.” By being thoroughly educated about your diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care, you can feel more in control of your life again. So, the next time you’re heading for an appointment with your physician, grab a pen and paper and consider asking some of these questions about survivorship.
7. It’s OK to Ask for Help
Your journey with breast cancer may have brought with it a whirlwind of emotions – shock, fear, denial, sadness, anger. Thinking about insurance, finances or finding services can be overwhelming. That’s why there are programs and organizations that offer resources, support and guidance. And it’s OK to ask for help. Says one fellow survivor: “I learned that if I took a hand offered to me, there was no telling what gifts I would receive.”
8. We Consider You Part of the Family
This organization was founded more than 30 years ago on a promise between two sisters. That’s now the promise we make to you and to the world – to end breast cancer, forever. We’re working each and every day to fulfill that mission, in laboratories and in communities around the globe. And every time you lace up your sneakers to Race for the Cure (or put on a pink tie, or bake pink cupcakes or support our partners), you’re making that work possible. Learn how you can support Komen in your neighborhood and join us online to celebrate survivors today and every day!