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For Breast Cancer Awareness month, we asked survivors to pass along their secrets for staying positive after the diagnosis and getting through grueling treatments. Their words are guaranteed to inspire.
“I refused to call my disease cancer, "the Big C," or anything that would give it power over me. Instead, I called it "crab," the astrological symbol for Cancer. I had my good days and my crabby days, but I never gave up.” --Dagmar Herbstreuter, Mill Valley, California
“My belief in God kept my spirits up through breast, uterine, colon, AND skin cancer. God gives you only what you can handle, and knowing that God will carry you through whatever He leads you to has carried me to SURVIVAL more than once. Knowing that God has put me in the right place at the right time with the right doctors insures me that I am doing what needs to be done to beat this thing. --Anna Renault, Baltimore, Maryland
“My husband wrote on index cards things I could look forward to in the future. I had these cards in my purse when I went to my appointments or placed them at home next to my chair for a quick glance if I was feeling poorly.” --Haralee Weintraub, Portland, Oregon
“My mantra was 'Hydrate, Gyrate, Masticate, Meditate,' which got me through four surgeries and five months of chemo. So I drank plenty of water to stay hydrated. I kept moving my body, even if it was only a daily walk. I ate smarter and healthier to help the treatment succeed and heal the body. And I stayed mentally and spiritually focused through faith and meditation to de-stress. Put your self-health first." --Melanie Young, New York, New York
“My girls were only 5 years old when I was diagnosed, and I'm a single parent. I had to fight for them. Going to Gilda's Club (also known as the Cancer Support Community or CSC) helped me a lot. While my girls were in a children's support group, the parents of the kids met weekly to share our stories with others, get everybody's updates, help one another out, and learn from each other's experiences.” --Nina Matyszczak, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
"What kept me going was my support team--my parents, my colleagues, relatives, friends, and my medical team. My friends Stacey and Ellen, both cancer survivors, taught me so much about how to make a cancer patient smile. Ellen's cancer treatment was similar to mine, so she could relate to the treatment side effects, the emotional and physical issues, and the importance of supportive family and friends. Stacey was a cheerleader, a listener, and supporter. Both kept the cards, phone calls, and surprise packages coming throughout."
--Susan Reif, Tuxedo Park, New York
Posted by Susan Reif on Wednesday, July 8, 2015
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer three hours after my 6 year old was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. What kept me going was the need to navigate two life-threatening illnesses simultaneously. My coping mechanism was organizing: our treatment, our health, my family (my two kids, my husband, and a dog), and life itself. I found I needed to gather and document all of the necessary information in a notebook to keep it straight. I made binders for us both and carried them everywhere so all of the needed information was at my fingertips. All of the doctors were very impressed and thrilled that I had all of this info at the ready.” –-Lynda Shrager, Albany, New York
“What always helped me was my sense of humor…laughing at the worst and hoping for the best. When I lost my hair, I got an expensive wig for going out, but at home I’d put on a party wig and outfit to greet my husband--an Elvis wig, a Cher wig, a hippie wig. The first night, I chose the Elvis wig and when he saw me, we both laughed until we cried. To this day, we have a wig party each year for our family. Everyone picks their favorite wigs, and we all howl with laughter.” --Donna Gould, Matawan, New Jersey
“I used various herbs and spices to bolster my health. I added fenugreek leaves to certain dishes, and I believe it kept me from losing my hair during chemotherapy treatments. I used various spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and fennel to help with my loss of appetite. Other spices, like cumin and coriander, helped my digestion. I think all those helped me deal with the effects of radiation, surgery, and other treatments. --Geeta Bansal, Irvine, California