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Smoothing out the rocky roads of a breast cancer diagnosis

I was 36 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. That was the year my world was turned upside down.

twoman with breast cancer

Photo credit: Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

t I was single, living on my own and independent, but once diagnosed, I moved home with my family and began treatments. I looked at my cancer as my top-priority project, but I otherwise continued my life (work, friends and going out), rendering breast cancer as little importance as possible. Continuing to enjoy my life, work and play kept my spirits high.

t Some of the biggest struggles for me, as a woman, were with my physical appearance. As a woman who never wore makeup or dyed her hair, I began searching for hair and eyebrow wigs and putting on makeup every morning. I learned many things from my diagnosis, but I never thought that how to put on makeup would become one! Initially, my goal was to use these tools to mask my breast cancer from strangers or colleagues at work who did not know about my diagnosis. I wanted them to see me as I knew I was: a professional, poised and capable woman.

t As time went on, I used these tools to help others looking for solutions, as well. For others at the hospital who had been diagnosed or for friends and family, I was able to become a resource and suggest products that I knew worked for me. I didn’t have a mentor during my first diagnosis, so I’m happy to help those in need of direction seek products they need.

t Now that I am once again fighting breast cancer, as I was diagnosed in October, I am extremely grateful for my knowledge. I learned that whatever happens in life, you cannot change it; however, you can change how you deal with it. Although it’s unfortunate that one must undergo these experiences firsthand to know exactly what is needed during various stages of fighting the disease, I know that there are solutions and products available that will make the experience a bit easier.

t Firsthand stories and advice from websites such as CureDiva and A Breast Cancer Alphabet, or stories from books like A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka, have really become great resources for women, as they provide real stories and real advice. For instance, if I had known earlier about choosing shirts with zippers instead of buttons, that chemo makes you gain weight and that there are more fashionable versions of products to make trivial tasks like showering easier, my first diagnosis would not have seemed so overwhelming. Spreading knowledge is why I became involved in CureDiva. I want to provide women with firsthand, tried-and-true solutions and resources all in one place. I wanted to share my story, as Sikka also does in her book, to help women understand that they are not alone in this fight and to teach those who have loved ones going through breast cancer how to help.

t I, as well as all survivors, have many stories to tell, whether they are comical, sad, eye-opening or empowering. Regardless, all such stories are based on our personal experiences, and they will hopefully help someone’s rocky road of diagnosis and treatment become a bit smoother.

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