What surprised them most about their diagnosis

“After my breast-cancer diagnosis, I ended up needing to have both breasts removed and implants put in. My biggest and best surprise was never needing to wear a bra again. I have to admit I rub it in a little when my girlfriends complain about underwire and poorly-fitting bras.” —Mary S., Lodi, CA

There is such a thing as stage 0 cancer

“Cancer diagnosis is not straightforward, and doctors won’t always assume that’s what it is. This is why it’s so important to get a second opinion! Stage 0 cancer is still cancer. Be proactive in your exams and health, don’t wait to get something checked out. Green liquid is not supposed to leak from your nipple, as I learned the hard way.” —Megan H., Ridgecrest, CA

BREAST CANCER STAGES AND SURVIVAL RATES

Doctors can be in denial too

“As hard as it was for me to hear that I had breast cancer, it was also really hard for my doctor to say it. It devastates doctors to tell young people (because let’s not forget that breast cancer is not just a women’s disease) that it’s cancer because, like you, they had desperately hoped it wasn’t.” —Megan H.

Chemo can make you crave junk food and gain weight

“Before breast cancer I had no idea how many different kinds of chemo are out there. It’s not like how you see in the movies where they are puking, losing weight, and all their hair falls out. In fact, some types of chemo do not cause nausea. So many people, including me, gained weight during chemo—mainly because the only taste buds that are left are for sweets, plus they administer steroids that stimulate the appetite. I hated how much I craved junk food when that is completely the opposite of my normal eating habits and tastes.” —Garian V., Boulder, CO

Everybody has a breast cancer story to tell you

“When I was first diagnosed, I was surprised at how many people had an experience with a friend, sister, mom, or co-worker having cancer. Unfortunately, they always wanted to tell me things like ‘She had stage 1 and died!’ or ‘She only had six months to live but she’s still hanging in there a year later!’ Every cancer, like every person, is different and having your cancer compared to someone else’s sucks. Hearing how someone had a 99 percent chance of survival and didn’t make it is not what we want to hear right now. Hearing how someone is a 10-year survivor after a terminal diagnosis, while uplifting and inspirational to you, usually is just depressing to someone who’s been told they have six months to live.” —Jen E., Suffolk, VA