1. Breast cancer isn’t something you can overcome with sheer will.
“I wish people would stop saying they ‘beat’ cancer. I saw a commercial the other day that featured a breast cancer survivor saying that ‘you can do anything you set your mind to.’ It’s not that simple.”
—Miranda Hermanski, Facebook
2. And dying from cancer doesn’t mean someone didn’t fight hard enough.
“I wish people would stop using ‘he/she lost the battle, lost the fight’ to me, losing has a negative connotation and cancer is a disease, not a competition. Both my parents died from cancer, they never lost any battles, they just got very sick and died.”
—Ivan A. Cintron Colon, Facebook
3. Breast cancer can hit anyone…
“I am a 30-year old mother-of-two living with stage 4 breast cancer. I was diagnosed about a week after my 30th birthday. I wish I didn’t forget that just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re invincible, and just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re exempt.”
—Nari Han Miller, Facebook
4. …Of any age…
“I wish I knew it was possible to get breast cancer as a teenager. When I go to appointments with my mum, people always think she’s the patient. I was very fortunate that my only treatment was surgery but juggling school and breast surgery wasn’t exactly easy.”
—Beth Porch, Facebook
5. …And any gender.
My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer last November. He’s in hospice care now. Most men find it too late because they aren’t looking.”
6. And most people don’t know ‘why’ they got breast cancer.
“I didn’t ‘do’ anything to get cancer. It’s not in my family, I didn’t eat the wrong foods. I just had bad cells. Stop asking me why. I don’t know.”
—Julianne Beach, Facebook
7. Sometimes, all the pink ribbons and fun runs can be isolating and distracting.
“The party atmosphere often surrounding pink ribbon promotions and campaigns conceals the harsh, devastating effects of breast cancer. We are not celebrating a holiday. This is not a sporting event where the side wearing the most team colors wins. Many women afflicted by breast cancer are troubled with how the pink marketing culture has distracted us from the goal of a cure, and as someone diagnosed with the disease in 2011, I feel the same way.”
—Camille Gryszka Miller, Facebook
8. Just because someone seems incredibly brave, that doesn’t mean they aren’t also scared shitless.
“The scars can be scary, and while you feel brave for getting through this bout, you always wonder if you’ll have another, and part of you, even if it’s deep down, worries that current or future partners might be bothered by them.”
9. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to talk about your breast cancer.
“I wish I would have known that it’s be incredibly hard to talk about in certain social situations, especially work, and to not put myself down and feel awkward for being uncomfortable with it.”
—Kalin Delfino, Facebook
10. But please, don’t pull away from your friends who are sick.
“Abandoning me because you don’t know what to say hurts worse than you saying the wrong thing. I don’t need my friends to solve my problems; I just need my friends.”
—Andrea Reynolds, Facebook
11. If you have no idea where to start, just ask how you can help.
“If you want to help someone with breast cancer, bring them a meal to freeze. Drive the kids to school, or offer to drive them to treatments and sit through them with them. Give money to the actual family in need. Babysit. Tidy up the house or the garden. Wash their car. Help with the little things that seem less important at the time. I appreciated it more than any dumb pink ribbon.”
12. Catchy slogans may raise awareness, but they’re not always helpful and relatable.
“I wish people would stop saying ‘save the tatas’ etc… There is an entire person worth saving there — not just the breasts.”
13. While positivity is always welcome, please don’t downplay the severity of this disease.
“It’s not OK because it’s ‘just breast cancer’ instead of a ‘worse cancer.’”
14. And remember, having a mastectomy with breast reconstruction surgery isn’t really the same as a typical breast augmentation.
“I wish my friends who had breast augmentation wouldn’t have compared their surgeries with my reconstruction after bilateral mastectomies. You. Have. No. Idea.”
15. Even when someone seems to be healthy, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still dealing with mental, physical, or emotional aspects of the disease.
“I wish people would stop using the term ‘cancer free’ because you are never truly ‘free’ from cancer.”
—Kelly Long, Facebook
16. Because sometimes what comes after breast cancer treatment can be the hardest part.
“The sense of fighting to survive leaves and you are left with depression, anxiety, debt, lack of job opportunities, lack of romantic prospects, fear of the cancer returning and a load of other issues that none of the doctors ever address. You are left alone to figure out the clusterfuck that is now your life. Your cancer family — other people with cancer you meet along the way — will become your lifelong family and will be the people who truly understand what you are going through.”
17. Above all, be there for your loved ones living with breast cancer, and remind them of how important they truly are.
“I wish I could remind myself every day that I am not DYING of cancer, but LIVING with cancer. I wish I could remind myself every day that I’d rather have this life than no life at all.”