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Joan Lunden: What I Wish I Knew Before Cancer Diagnosis

Wednesday, 01 October 2014 03:49 PM

In a new report that coincides with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Joan Lunden shared with NBC news what she's learned since being diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer in June.
 
In a special report on the Today Show, Lunden says doctors found two tumors in her right breast — both confirmed as what is called triple-negative breast cancer — after conducting a mammogram and a follow-up ultrasound.

“From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. You are just propelled at this meteoric speed straight to a cancer surgeon,” she says.
 
Here are 10 things she says she wishes she had known before her diagnosis:
 
No 1. You have to be your own patient advocate and decide what’s right for you. “I had to decide: Was I going to do surgery first and then chemotherapy? Was I going to do chemotherapy in a way that it’s normally prescribed?” she notes. “I chose to do chemotherapy first, to shrink the tumors, followed by surgery.”
 
No 2. Don’t worry about losing your hair. I’m not going to lie: Losing your hair is really weird,” says Lunden, who posed bald for People magazine. “But at some point, my hair is going to grow back and I’ll bet you that a year from now, I’ll look back on this as like a little curve in the road. It won’t define me and I’ll go on and I’ll be here for my children and my husband.”
 
No. 3. Going into “warrior mode” will help you cope. You need to stay in a healthy, positive mind set. I’m in warrior mode right now, which means taking care of yourself and believing you’re going to be OK in the end,” she says. “And that’s important.”
 
No. 4. Diet is key to staying healthy. “Many things that we eat and drink are causing us to get cancer,” she says. “All the garbage food that I ate along with every other American —processed, refined foods — I now look at it with eyes wide open. I see now how I unwittingly contributed to my own breast cancer.”
 
No. 5. It’s important to become a food-label reader. Start reading labels: I always considered myself a label reader, but I wasn’t,” she says. “But boy, I am now.”
 
No. 6. There are ways to make chemotherapy easier. When you’re going through chemotherapy, there are a lot of needles [but] I went and got a port put into my upper left chest so that they could give me all my chemotherapy that way,” she says.
 
No. 7. Eat right during chemo. Chemo doesn’t know the good cells from the bad cells, so it kills off a lot of your good cells, including those on the inner lining of your digestive tract … but the cleaner you can eat – cutting out refined, processed, foods – that’s what allowed me to live normally.”
 
No. 8. Give yourself some TLC. I had to learn to stop pushing through,” she says. “That was really hard for me to do, but I had to do it.
 
No. 9. A support system is key. I have found my strength in my family and my friends and they have just been completely amazing,” she says.
 
No. 10. A mammogram is sometimes not enough. Be vigilant: Early detection gives you the best prognosis,” she notes. “You have to get checked. When you go in to get your mammogram, ask them: Are my breasts fatty tissue? Or are they dense fibrous tissue? You need to know that. If they say they’re dense and fibrous, you need to fight to get that ultrasound.”

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Joan Lunden shares 10 cancer lessons, including things she wishes she knew before being diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer in June.
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Wednesday, 01 October 2014 03:49 PM
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