10 Lessons Learned From Breast Cancer

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never dreamed it would all be so complicated. I also didn’t realize I’d have to make decisions that would affect my ‘survival rate’ or ‘cancer recurrence rate.’ I thought a team of doctors would tell me what to do. Everybody I met had a different opinion, and ultimately, I had to make my own decisions about surgery and treatment each step of the way.

breast cancer rehab
I had intense physical therapy to get the range of motion back into my arms

Hot Hubby and I pondered such delights as potential recurrence and survival rates versus percentage of potential side effects for various treatments. And as Hot Hubby pointed out, I decreased my survival rates by driving to these appointments with the crazy LA drivers out there!

diagram of breast cancer
I love a good cancer diagram!

After meeting many respected oncologists, we found the third trifecta of our dream team. Dr. Philomena McAndrew walked us through the pathology of my tumor and showed us data on the effectiveness and recurrence rates of hormone therapy and IV chemotherapy. She believed breast cancer was treated as “one size fits all” in the past, instead of a more personalized approach. She strongly believed the data from two FDA approved genetic tests that showed me at low-risk for recurrence.

how to help kids living through moms cancer
The boys loved the many boobie gifts that arrived at our house!

We discussed how the next ten years would look with hormone therapy. By the way, this was no “get out of jail free” card. Tamoxifen was supposed to cut my risk of metastatic disease from 20% to about 10%, meaning I should grow old with Hot Hubby and die in my sleep holding his hand after a long walk on the beach. But there were no guarantees. Tamoxifen comes with many uncomfortable side effects including moodiness, hot flashes, risk of stroke and uterine cancer (lovely).

My battle is far from over, and I could be sharing a very different story or not be here to share at all had I detected this disease later. According to my PET/CT and bone scans, I am cancer free (YAY!), and I am taking a daily magical pill that suppresses the hormones that feed my cancer, and will prevent a recurrence. (Frankly it seems like a huge weight to put on one measly pill!)

lessons we learned from an illness

Hot Hubby didn’t give the best blow-out I’ve ever had, but it was given with the most love as I had to keep my hands by my side for two weeks post surgery!Now we’re on the other side of cancer, I realize we attacked this disease as a family, and learned important lessons.

As it turned out, breast cancer had a lot to teach me:

  • This is science and doctors are all “practicing” medicine.

  • The little things that would really freaking irritate me… well, they seem so insignificant now.

  • Nothing is more important than family and friends.

  • I am incredibly grateful for so many things. And gratitude is so powerful and healing. I’m especially grateful for those who showed kindness and helped us through our toughest times. I wish I could write every single name down to thank them, but they all know who they are.

  • Cancer takes a toll and it’s constant. It’s not just a massive shock the day you are diagnosed, but it’s a continual attack. At times it’s manageable, but other times I want to scream. I may be joking and smiling, but this is just a coping mechanism.

  • I’m not angry that I had cancer. The closest to anger is when I think about the worry, pain and fear, that forced my sweet boys to grow up more quickly.

  • I will not be ashamed of my scars and my reconstructed breasts. I am proud of my body and what it has overcome. I feel lucky to be alive.

  • Once cancer touches your life it’s there forever. I am certainly not going to live in fear of a recurrence, however I realize I don’t have time to waste. I understand now more than ever how fragile and unpredictable life is. I make the most of every second.

  • I’m not afraid to die. Before learning the stage of my cancer, I felt strangely calm and was planning next steps for my boys. Thankfully this wasn’t my path. I feel content with my life and have no regrets.

  • Our family can do hard things. We faced a scary diagnosis. We figured out a treatment plan. We managed the treatment. That feels pretty awesome.

how kids deal with moms illness
Can’t tell if my teenager hates cancer more or loves boobies!?!?

I’m told my ten year anniversary is significant. Each headache and knee pain over the next few years will be stressful, but I refuse to live in fear.

I will continue to live life full and large, and as Nemo said, “Just keep swimming!”

What did breast cancer teach you?

Let me know by leaving a comment below and joining me on Instagram and Twitter!

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.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *