13 Things That Every Breast Cancer Survivor Wishes You Knew

April 29th is just another day for most people, however, for me it is filled with crazy emotions. Trauma, sadness, fear, PTSD, and hope and relief. I’m a breast cancer survivor.

Two years ago my life and body changed forever when I had two cancerous tumors removed, both breasts removed, and along with all of that, I had 13 lymph nodes removed from under my arm. The removal took two surgeries, and the second surgery also included the start of reconstruction and took 13 hours. Cancer really sucks.

As a survivor, I am grateful for each day that I get to walk on this earth. However, I will never be the same again.

I mean it’s not like I’m wallowing in grief every minute of every day or anything, but breast cancer is ALWAYS with me and ALWAYS WILL be with me.

If you have a friend or relative with breast cancer, this article is for you. I found that my friends and family understand my physical trauma, but it’s impossible to grasp the emotions that I feel, and most people are too uncomfortable to have a conversation about cancer and how it makes me feel now.

So here’s a handy list of things to do and say, and things NOT to do and NOT say to a cancer survivor. It’s the things that a cancer survivor wishes you knew about the disease and the emotional struggle we go through every day

Things a Cancer Survivor Wishes You Knew:

1. I didn’t grasp how difficult the cancer treatment was while it was happening. After 5 surgeries in 11 months, I am only now able to realize the extent of the trauma that my body and mind went through, and how long it takes to really get past it.

2. My left armpit will always feel like someone is sticking me with a coat hanger.

3. I am constantly reminded of my double mastectomy every time I take a shower. I cannot feel the water on my chest.

 4. I cannot open jars or do pushups because I have no tissue and few muscles left in my chest.

5. Just because you see me laughing and carrying on with my life as ‘normal’, doesn’t mean I’m not scared shitless. I’m living in fear that bad cancer cells will start to grow again and I won’t get to see my kids graduate high school or college.

6. I want to hear success stories, not horror stories. Please don’t make a point to tell me about your nanny who had a double mastectomy at 42, only for the cancer to come back two years later and now she’s dead. It’s not that I don’t care about your nanny… I really really do… it’s just that this is my worst f*ing fear, and I simply don’t want to go there.

I am a breast cancer survivor
Surgery #1… let’s get this party started!  Hey Cancer!  Coming ready or not!

7. Don’t talk to me differently. If a friend of ours is diagnosed and we’re talking about it in a group, please don’t go silent and weird when you realize that I’m there. Honestly, I can take these conversations. Going silent on me makes me feel as though you think I have the plague and that you are all part of the “non-cancer club” who can freely talk about this, and I’m part of a ‘cancer club”. Which, I’m painfully aware that I am, I just don’t need to be reminded.

8. Sometimes I’m so nervous when I go to my oncology appointments, I vomit in the bathroom of the waiting room. But I put on this brave face when you ask me how my appointment went as though it’s no big deal.

9. I no longer have control over my body and emotions. The chemicals that I take on a daily basis like Tamoxifen are totally running this ship… some days I barely feel them, and other days I don’t even know who this bat-shit-crazy person is. None of this is deliberate.

10. Please don’t take it personally, and please forgive me. I’d love to not take the drugs, but you see, those same chemicals that sometimes turn me bat-shit-crazy, are the same chemicals that are supposed to keep me alive. Cool.

Two days after my double mastectomy. for cancer

    Two days post double mastectomy… the boys just wanted to see me alive at that point.  I doubled up on my pain meds, stood up, and let them know that momma was going to be fine

11. When people say “You’re all good now, right?” what I want to say is that I’m all good unless these f*ing cancer cells in my body decide to grow and take a tour of my body again. You see this is how it works for me now. If my cancer returns, it’s not because I did or didn’t do something… it’s because those are the cards I’ve been dealt

12. My heart breaks when I tell my son Julian that I have a doctor’s appointment, and he looks at me with fear and asks me what’s wrong. You see, he is constantly afraid that cancer is going to sneak up on us from nowhere… like it did the first time… and there is nothing more heartbreaking than your little boy making you promise him that you are not going to die.

13. I wish people would stop using the term ‘cancer-free’ because you are never truly ‘free’ from cancer. Back to an earlier point…I’m cancer-free unless those f*ing cancer cells decide to explore my body again.

I remind myself every day that I am not DYING of cancer, but LIVING with cancer, and I remind myself every day that I’d rather have this life than no life at all

Read here what you can expect when you are diagnosed with cancer.

Ding Dong the witch is dead! breast cancer
Ding Dong the witch is dead!

Do you have other tips for the friends and family of cancer survivors?

Please let me know in the comments below!

About The Author


I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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