My advice to someone who has been recently diagnosed would be to scream, cry, and let every emotion that you’re feeling out. Your life has just done a 180. You’re entitled to be sad, pissed, and scared. You don’t have to put on a brave face. Let it out. Then, when you grasp your new reality, educate yourself and become informed. You are your best advocate. Find a support group, as it helps to talk with others who are dealing with the same diagnosis. Most importantly, live! Make the most of your “feel good” days. Get out and make memories!

When I was diagnosed, I told myself that having one of the most common types of cancer meant the best outlook for treatment and survival. Waiting for scan results was one of the hardest parts, but once I knew what I had, I could concentrate on getting through treatment. I looked for as much information and advice as possible. I started a blog to keep family and friends updated on my progress. It actually became cathartic and helped me keep my sense of humor. Looking back now, about a year after my diagnosis, I can’t believe I went through it all. I discovered an inner strength I never knew existed. My advice to anyone with a recent diagnosis is don’t panic, take everything one step at a time, and be as positive as possible. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself. It might all seem very daunting at first, but you can—and will—get through it.

The most important advice I have for other women is to find support from fellow pink warriors. Only we can comfort and understand each other and what we’re going through. My “pink page” on Facebook (Lorraine’s Big Pink Adventure) has exactly that purpose. Consider taking a step back and becoming a witness to your journey. Be open to receiving love and healing from others, and be open to miracles. Think of how you can “pay it forward” and help others going through this fight. Be and do everything in life you’ve dreamed of being and doing. Stay focused on the present and count your blessings. Honor your fears, but don’t let them control or get the best of you. Make healthy choices and take care good care of yourself. Whatever you do, don’t think you’re doomed or that asking for help is a weakness or burden. Thinking positive, staying present, and paying it forward can save your life. I turned to my creativity and spirituality in my darkest times, and it saved me. It can save you, too.

You must remember to take it all one day at a time. If that seems overwhelming, take it an hour or even minutes at a time. Always remember to breathe your way through each moment. When I was diagnosed, I looked at the whole process in front of me, and that completely freaked me out. But once I broke it into stages, like getting through chemo, surgery, and then radiation, I felt more in control. I still use this method today living with stage 4 cancer and a secondary cancer of myelodysplastic syndromes. Some days I even have to break it down further, at an hour or less at a time, to remember to breathe and get through a situation.

My advice to a recently diagnosed woman is to become informed and be an advocate for yourself. Educate yourself on the type of cancer you have and the treatments available. Bring another person to your appointments so they can write everything down. Ask questions of your doctor and find a support group. Find a passion to pursue, like exercise, writing, or crafting—anything to keep yourself engaged and not focused on cancer every day. Live life to the fullest!

Allow yourself to grieve and feel the losses, such as your future, your health, and even your finances. It is very painful, but you will be able to come to terms with it. Remember that many of us live much longer now. Metastatic breast cancer is closer to becoming a chronic, treatable disease. Always believe that you can live many years beyond what old statistics say. It’s been six years since my diagnosis and two years since my last progression. I am doing well with no indications that things will change for the worse. My goal back then was to see my younger son graduate high school. Next year, he will graduate college. Be realistic, but keep hope alive.

Don’t let cancer define you. Breast cancer is not a death sentence! It’s treated like a chronic illness and can be maintained for many years. The most important thing to have is a positive attitude. Live every day as best as you can. I work, travel, and do all the things I had done before I was diagnosed. Do not feel sorry for yourself, and please don’t listen to people that come at you with theories on cures for cancer. Live your life. I always ate very well, exercised, never smoked, and I still got the disease. Live your life and enjoy!

I was diagnosed with breast cancer before my 40th birthday. Like most people, I thought I knew about the disease, but I learned that there is so much more to understand.You can let the “what-ifs” get you down, or you can embrace a different mindset. We don’t have a cure yet, but while you’re alive, you need to live in the present. Breast cancer revealed to me that I wasn’t living and enjoying my life. I was spending a lot of time wishing things were different or wishing I was different. In truth, I was fine. I didn’t cause my breast cancer, and I can’t determine whether I will have a recurrence in the future. But in the meantime, I can do what I’m supposed to do to take care of myself and learn to enjoy the life that I have. Breast cancer is difficult, but it can reveal a stronger you than you’re aware of.