Things No One Tells You About Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Hi, remember when I wrote an article about finding a lump in my breast? Remember how I was like, “oh they said it was fine, it’s a less than 1% chance of being cancer?” Remember how all the signs pointed to it not being cancer? …Do you see where I’m going with this?

Not to freak you guys out, but I got that cyst drained and it turned out to be f*cking cancer. I’m now a f*cking cancer patient. If you learn anything from this, it’s get weird sh*t on your body checked out immediately. I just found out (today, actually), it’s much worse than expected, and I’ll be starting chemo immediately and then getting a double mastectomy and later radiation. I’m not joking. I’ve already had surgery to get the tumor out (5.5 cm, btw, which is bigger than a tennis ball). So, I’ll live, thank God, which is the most important thing. But I’m about to spend the next year doing basically nothing but having cancer. And I’m only 28. Now that I’m about to go through this sh*tty, draining, miserable process, since breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women, here’s what I wish I knew about actually being diagnosed with breast cancer.

It Takes Ages To Get Results

I found my lump over a month ago at this point, and I just got it finally cut out last week. In that time, it grew from the size of a golf ball to bigger than a tennis ball. And it hurt! I couldn’t sleep, like that’s basically my entire breast. This is why it’s important to go to the doctor the second you find anything abnormal: biopsies take at least a week each to get results in, and you’ll have many biopsies. If you wait, you could be growing cancer the entire time. This is what happened to me. I got into my regular OB-GYN the next morning after finding my lump. She had me go to a breast cancer center for a better ultrasound. It took a week to get that appointment. Then they drained my cyst and sent it to biopsy because it was abnormal. Another week for results. Then I had to get a core biopsy at a cancer surgeon. Almost another week to get in there. Then we waited for those results for a week. Then I had to schedule my surgery, but first I needed blood work, cardiac clearance (I have heart issues too, I’m basically an old, fragile lady), an MRI, and to get dye injected into my tumor for my lymph node biopsy. So go to the doctor right now if you have anything wrong at all, because it takes FOREVER to get some real answers or solutions.

Treatment Takes Forever

Do you like your job? Too bad, because cancer will make you too debilitated to do anything. Breast surgery restricts your arm usage (see below), you can’t do repetitive movements afterwards (hi, drawing and writing and typing for me), and chemo and radiation both make you too sick to drive or function or really do any work. Awesome. So. Be prepared if you get The Diagnosis that you’re going to have to come up with a backup plan for a while while you take a year for treatment. I had no idea that chemo took six months. Or that a double mastectomy and reconstruction is actually 3 surgeries, not just one, like getting implants is. That makes it a roughly three-month process, minimum. My doctor literally told me to clear my schedule for a year. It sucks, but what’s the alternative? “Guess I’ll just die?” Not really the way I wanted to go.

Chemo Makes You Infertile

Hi, did you know this? Because I did NOT. But to be fair, everyone I know who’s had chemo is well past childbearing years, so I guess it never came up. But *fun facts* about women. We’re born with all the eggs we’re ever going to have. So like, if you shoot your body full of poison, it’s also going to mess those eggs up. I literally told my doctor, like if I didn’t already have cancer, these treatments seem like they’d definitely give me cancer. But because of this, I am now about to see a fertility specialist and freeze my eggs before I begin chemo. I don’t even like kids or think I want them, but I’m not ready to make a decision on it yet. The cancer fun just never stops!

You’ll Have Useless T-Rex Arms

THIS is the thing that I found absolutely nowhere on all of the internet. You cannot move your arms well after breast surgery. You can’t raise them above your head. You just have these little useless T-Rex arms that can’t reach anything and hurt to move. For the lumpectomy, it’s two weeks of T-Rex arm on whatever side your tumor was on. For a double mastectomy, it’s both arms for at least a month. Here are all the things I can’t do with only having one sad T-Rex arm: wash my hair easily, put my hair up at all, pluck my eyebrows, put my dishes away, reach my tall cabinets, water my plants, put on a regular T-shirt without buttons, and the list keeps going. You also can only lift a max of five pounds, which is literally nothing. It’s a weird problem I didn’t previously consider.

They Will Tattoo Your Nipples Back On

wait what

When I was first told I had cancer, I hyper-fixated on the nipple issue. I don’t know why. I think just the thought of my nipples being cut off against my will was so invasive, I couldn’t comprehend it. I wasn’t even that concerned about the cancer at first—like, I just wanted to know, what happens if they can’t save my nipples? I guess it was easier to deal with that problem than face the horrible cancer diagnosis. But my surgeon showed me pictures, and it turns out, if you have to have your nipples removed, they can tattoo nipples on that look exactly the same. You can’t even tell. They can even make them out of other tissue from your body. I thought they’d look like horrible painted-on cartoon nipples, but no, you’d never know. So. That doesn’t exactly solve any problems, but at least if you have to have them, know that this is an option. Some people even replace their nipples with awesome tattoos, or don’t bother at all. You do you.

You’ll Need A LOT Of Help


I hate admitting defeat. I hate asking for help. I like to do everything myself. But with breast cancer, that is no longer an option. You’ll need rides to almost every appointment, particularly surgery, radiation, and chemo. You’ll even want moral support for biopsies and the subsequent results. You won’t be able to eat, shower, get dressed, or do anything by yourself. So, be nice to your friends because you never know when you’ll have to ask them to help you put on your squashy surgical bra with the nine tiny clasps. I’m super grateful that my friends have stepped up and are amazing, taking me to all my appointments and basically dropping everything in their own lives. Plus, you’ll need drinking buddies to cope in between treatments.

So, if you’re going through this, please know that so many other people are too, including me, and while it sucks, we will get through it. Hopefully this gives you some insight into what you’ll experience so you can be better prepared. Hey, it could always be worse, right?

Images: Ladislav Bona / Unsplash; Giphy (6)

Holly Hammond
Holly Hammond
Holly is an ex-sorority girl with the personality of Elle Woods meets Wednesday Addams. She is an artist, writer, animator, and part-time magician. Her parents are v proud but also like to ask her when she's going to get a real job. Buy art from her so she can pay for her bulldog's dermatologist.