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After Susan’s aunt passed away from breast cancer at the age of 42, she became vigilant about never missing a mammogram. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her immediate concerns were practical in nature. “I knew my family history,” she says. “I was like, what do I have to do? Ok. Let’s do it.”

She credits her strength and resilience during this time to having a strong support system. “My mom and two sisters were at every appointment. They came with me to my operation, and my mom took care of me after. My sisters were my angels. My cousin Rosemary was good to reach out to because she’s been through it. Any time I needed to talk to her, she was there.”

Susan learned about CancerCare through a social worker. At the time, she was not able to work and had no income. She called CancerCare and discovered that she was eligible for financial assistance, and received a transportation grant.

“It eased the burden a little bit. Gas is not free, and at the time gas was high. Some friends told me not to worry about it, because I had enough going on, but you need gas no matter what.”

Susan is still receiving treatment, but having “been there,” she is full of good advice. Here’s what she’d say to others who are faced with a cancer diagnosis:

If you know someone with cancer, don’t be afraid to reach out. “I knew I wasn’t alone, but just pick up the phone! We need to get out, too!”

At the same time, listen when a person with cancer sets limits. “Be patient with people who are going through this. Don’t tell someone that what they’re feeling is all in their head. If you think your friend or family member needs to get out, but they know they’re not feeling well, don’t push it.”

Ask for a second opinion. “A lot of the time we stick with the doctor we started with because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but if something doesn’t seem right about what they’re telling you, get a second opinion.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Don’t be ashamed. Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed. Sometimes the people you know just won’t get it, but some of them will.”

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