5 Things About Breast Cancer You Should Take to Heart


Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
(#20 in a series)

As a triple-negative breast cancer survivor, there’s a lot I could tell you about the process. In fact, this is my 20th blog post on the topic. But the most important things I want you to take away from this series are really quite simple. I hope you take them to heart.

1. Touch yourself. Be familiar with your breasts. Get to know them like the back of your hand. Like the majority of breast cancer patients I’ve met or spoken to in this past year, I’m the one who discovered my breast lump.

2. Take breast lumps seriously. If you find a lump in your breast, don’t give in to the temptation to dismiss it. Breast cancer can happen to you. Even if you never smoked. Even if you eat right. Even if you think you’re making all the right choices. Even if there’s never been a case of cancer in your family. Even if …

3. Call the doctor. Don’t waste precious time. Sure, you’re busy, but that’s a terrible reason to die. Ignorance is not bliss. If it turns out to be a false alarm, then whew! Now treat yourself to something special for your troubles. If it turns out to be cancer, early treatment may greatly increase your chances of long-term survival.

4. Cancer treatment is a bitch. So is premature death. Remember what’s at stake for you and your loved ones. You’re tougher than you think. Be an active patient. Learn all you can, question doctors, and make informed decisions based on fact, not fear.

5. Never stop living. No matter how bad you feel. No matter if you’re bald as a newborn baby and people look at you funny or if food has lost its allure or if you’ve lost weight and your clothes hang funny or if you’re missing a breast or two and your prosthesis is the wrong size or whatever else is out of whack. You have no idea how long you’ll be here — just like every other human being on the planet, whether they realize it or not. As long as you’re alive … live.

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
#1 The Lump in my Breast: Meeting the Enemy
#2 Most Breast Lumps are Non-Cancerous: Would mine be?
#3 The Mammogram, the Ultrasound, and ‘the Look’
#4 The Biopsy and Breast Cancer Confirmation
#5 A New Twist: It’s Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#6 Before the Mastectomy: Planning for the Future
#7 Mastectomy Day: What it’s like to lose a breast
#8 After the Mastectomy: Unveiling and Staging
#9 10 Odd Things to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer
#10 Cancer Battle Plan Phase 2: Chemotherapy
#11 5 Things I Love About my Very Expensive Health Insurance
#12 10 Simple Gestures of Kindness with Healing Power
#13 Half a Year on Chemotherapy and Taking Nothing for Granted
#14 Breast Cancer Treatment: Weighing Reward and Risk
#15 The Radiation Decision, The Long Road, The Badge of Honor
#16 The Healing Power of Nurses
#17 Grieving Son Recounts Mom’s Battle with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#18 Searching for “Normal” After Cancer
#19 “Did You Beat Cancer?” they want to know

Access all posts in the Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series

Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Image: iStockPhoto.com


Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance7 years ago

I think #5 is the most important --- rain or shine, live everyday. My mother has Alzheimer's disease and is in care. She likes to go out for dinner, have a glass of wine and a little good food. At 83 years, she doesn't eat a lot, but she eats enough for her needs. But her Alzheimer's is progressing and she is much like a 5 year old. I often have to cut her meat for her; she will get confused with what utensil to use (she eats carrits by spearing them with a knife, tries to butter bread with a spoon etc); she'll pick up food in her fingers that you normally wouldn't. If she realised what she was doing she would be mortified. And we get a few looksfrom other restaurant patrons. But I am determined that she will live every day and enjoy every day. She enjoys going out so hang what anybody else thinks.

I struggled with this situation, but it is reading your articles Ann, and reading many of the comments that have made me realise, screw what others think. My mother enjoys eating out and for her, that is living life. So we will continue to go out for dinner once or twice a week until she no longer takes joy from it.

Roger B.
Roger Bird7 years ago

Laure H., I tried to give you a star, but it said that you did not a profile or some such. I usually don't stay focused for more than a few lines, but I read your compelling posts (3) from beginning to end. You said it way better than I could.

Laure H.
Laure H7 years ago

... and is functioning well. Therefore, whether you vaccinate or not, it is of the utmost importance that you get the best information on taking care of yourself holistically in ways that make your body inhospitable to disease.

Laure H.
Laure H7 years ago

and then had the cancer come back - yet she chose to support herself spiritually, nutritionally, physically, etc., in ways that the doctors certainly didn't teach her. She refused all care except to go in and have pictures taken...pictures that showed her cancer shrinking over time. Decades later she is alive and thriving.

People have actually reversed their cancer with holistic programs that address the basics of health in different ways. There is no ONE way, but there are basic things that need to be addressed: remove the carcinogens from the body and do your best to prevent more from entering the body, no matter what the source - unforgiveness, unresolved grief, pesticide-ridden food, water, air, products you bring into your home or use at your place of work, lack of proper nutrition, and medications (like anti-cholesterol meds), to name a few.

And if you think you are eating a diet that will prevent cancer, and it comes to you via some AMA approved source, think again. You don't have the information you need to create a diet that has the best chance of preventing or helping to reverse cancer. They don't believe it can be done, they don't receive the information in medical school, etc.

As for vaccines for other diseases? There have always been people who never get sick during plagues. We don't understand everything about this, but what we do know about the immune system is that it can usually ward off disease if it has been properly nurtured and is

Laure H.
Laure H7 years ago

I've always thought it was tragic that I was taught that, in the heirarchy of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, there was nothing actually about prevention when it comes to cancer: just early detection.

And I can sympathize with those who did their best - and/or whose loved ones did their best - to take care of their health and still died of cancer. They cannot and should not be blamed for doing the best that they knew how to do, or for choosing to simply enjoy their lives to the best of their ability (smoking and eating whatever they want until they died.)

My mother was one of those, but I can say that all the alternative things that she did made her life longer than any doctor expected it to be, and that she actually improved her quality of life significantly after she discovered alternatives after the damage of surgery and radiation had put her onto a roller-coaster of complications and life-robbing medications. Truly, she did not have the physical ability to do all that she could have done, after her allopathic treatment. Had she known about them beforehand, when she was able to walk and talk to do her life perfectly well with the exception of being able to feel a bump, the disease course may have been very different.

My chiropractor is someone who had a bad experience with allopathic cancer treatment - i.e., she almost bled to death during surgery, they had to cut out and throw away part of her colon as a result of a slip of a scalpel, and t

Anja N.
Justin R7 years ago

Thank you for your efforts Ann!

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec7 years ago

Thanks Ann! Glad to see life goes on, inspite of cancer. You inspire other cancer survivors.

Roger B.
Roger Bird7 years ago

Elizabeth, is that an excuse for not trying to stay healthy. // I got a BA in psychology and a BA in philosophy and an AS in electronics technology. The philosophy BA was also gained legally and accredited without a single philosophy class. Well, truthfully, I had a philosophy class as a freshman, but it was mostly an excuse for the professor to challenge us to think. We did not actually learn any philosophy other than his spouting off. Perhaps that is where I learned to spout off so well. // We are all learning more and more and better and better the best ways to stay healthy. // I can't seem to make paragraphs in the end result when I send a post to Care2. Is there some trick I should know about?

Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K7 years ago

Roger, philosophy was my minor. And a major in something else that starts with a P.

So that and dogs in common.

Also I still say that you're way more fun than Diane.

A friend of mine died the other day. Ate healthy, did all the right things, and got a blood clot in her leg that broke loose. What some of us are trying to say is that shit happens.

To anyone.

Roger B.
Roger Bird7 years ago

Elizabeth, I have been a health nut for 40 years. I have been a spiritual aspirant for 44 years. I got an 81% in the GRE (the Graduate Record Exam, mostly for people who want to go on to graduate school) advanced test in philosophy (for philosophy graduate school hopefuls) without taking a single philosophy course. I would have to be pretty stupid in a very strange sort of way to not have a lot of wisdom regarding health. [And I know that this does not qualify me to spout off about politics or political philosophy.]

And I know that you were just messing with me.