‘Save your strength for the fight!’ Breast cancer survivors, patients and advocates offer their best advice

The uncertainty a breast cancer diagnosis brings can be mind-numbing.

What are the best treatments for me? Who should I turn to for support? How do I take care of myself and my family?

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, the latest year for which incidence data are available, 250,520 new cases of female breast cancer were reported among women.

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No two women are the same, so we asked Pink Ribbon Girls as well as our readers to offer their best advice for someone beginning their journey with breast cancer.

Maribeth Schindler, Pink Ribbon Girls ambassador. PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON LAVECK PHOTOGRAPHY

“One piece of advice I would give someone recently diagnosed is to stay positive; it’s 99.9 percent of the fight. If you think you can or cannot, you are probably right and don’t be too proud to ask for help, WE are here for you!”

— Maribeth Schindler, Pink Ribbon Girls ambassador

Jan Middleton, Director of Peer Support and Education for Pink Ribbon Girls CONTRIBUTED

“Cancer can make you feel like you are losing control of everything. Remember that YOU control how you take this journey! Many will give you advice or tell you what you should do. Do your research, get multiple opinions and make decisions that are best for YOU!”

— Jan Middleton, Director of Peer Support and Education for Pink Ribbon Girls

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Nichole Smith, Director of Programming, Pink Ribbon Girls. CONTRIBUTED

"As a young survivor, there were many unknowns for me. The best advice I could give would be the advice that was given to me. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand and advocate for yourself and quality of care.”

— Nichole Smith, Director of Programming, Pink Ribbon Girls

Karen Ladina, Central Ohio Community Engagement for Pink Ribbon Girls CONTRIBUTED

"One of the best pieces of advice I received upon my diagnosis was to “Keep your focus on today — don’t look too far ahead! There is so much important information coming at you, oftentimes all at once, and it’s often difficult to absorb it all. Take time to pause and take peace in knowing that you will understand more and more each new day about what next steps are best for you, best for your family and for your diagnosis. Be sure to seek out the silver linings you’ll discover each day — it may seem impossible to find them at first, but they are there. Sometimes a wondrous silver lining unveils itself right before your very eyes!”

— Karen Ladina, Central Ohio Community Engagement for Pink Ribbon Girls

Chasity Metz, Pink RibbonGirls client

“Breathe, take your time, get a second or even third opinion. You will be with this medical team for many years. Make sure you are comfortable and trust them. Ask questions and make sure you understand. Be your own advocate. Take the help that is offered.”

— Chasity Metz of Fairfield, Pink Ribbon Girls client

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Erika Silva, Pink Ribbon Girls ambassador

“Do not lose faith, keep pushing yourself, surround yourself with friends and family.”

— Erika Silva, Pink Ribbon Girls ambassador

Heather Salazar, President/CEO, Pink Ribbon Girls

“I didn’t want to accept any help at first. My husband Steve said, ‘Stop denying people the blessing of being there for you.’ He was right. You need to focus on healing, save your strength for the fight. Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength. You are putting yourself first, and that is more important than anything else.”

— Heather Salazar, President/CEO, Pink Ribbon Girls

Missy Tingley of Springfield, a breast cancer patient.

I’m still on my breast cancer journey and am about to start radiation. I was diagnosed in March and had chemo then a double mastectomy with axillary lymph node removal and lymphovenous bypass. My best advice is something a friend told me which is to keep a journal of everything. It’s so overwhelming at first and there is so much information and decisions to be made. The journal was great for during chemo as I wrote down how I felt each day and then when it was time for the next treatment I knew what to expect and when to take any meds to offset side effects. Keep a positive attitude and this doesn’t mean that you don’t have days that you cry, scream or whatever you need to do to let it out. Try to walk each day no matter how far you go. Also this is when you find out who your real friends or family are so the ones you don’t hear from for weeks or months on end well they must have not been great friends anyway so don’t sweat it. Lastly I know that attitude, the many prayers, keeping up my walking and a great support system have gotten me thru this so far!”

— Missy Tingley, patient, Springfield

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