What All Women Should Know About a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
In 2011, Emmy Award-winning journalist Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. Since her treatment, she has become a tireless and passionate advocate for women battling the disease.
Rancic founded Fab-U-Wish, an initiative to help women undergoing treatment for breast cancer feel fabulous, and has developed a clean skincare line called Fountain of Truth, inspired by her desire to use clean skincare on her body.
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, we spoke with Rancic about the work she is doing to support the breast cancer community.
1. What is the most important thing you want women to know when dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis?
It’s important to know that breast cancer is not a one-size-fits-all disease. In fact, there are many types of breast cancer. The path a friend of yours took when she was diagnosed is not necessarily the path you will go down. On that note, it’s important to get at least two opinions when determining which treatment is right for you. Oh, and don’t forget to write down all the questions you have for your doctor before each visit. I used to kick myself after an appointment because I forgot to ask something that was on my mind. I finally started jotting my questions down in the notes section of my phone—that way they were readily available at each appointment. So much is a blur when you are first diagnosed, so doing this was super helpful and took some of the stress out of those appointments.
2. What do you wish you had known about the disease before you were diagnosed?
I wish I had known just how strong the breast cancer community was and that there was an incredible (and available) sisterhood to lean on. Once I realized that, I started to exhale a bit knowing I had so much love and support and so many incredible women willing to share their stories with me. This helped comfort me more than I will ever be able to express. And, it’s because of that support that I love paying it forward by being that helping hand and source of information and guidance for others. It’s a club you don’t ask to be a part of, but when you are faced with breast cancer, you are sure happy it’s there.
3. Can you offer some tips for women who receive a diagnosis?
When you first get diagnosed, it’s natural to feel a variety of emotions, including feeling scared, anxious and overwhelmed. If you’re like me, you’re going to want answers, and you’re going to want them yesterday. But once you’ve agreed on a treatment plan with your doctors, try to take a step back and breathe. Just because you have breast cancer, doesn’t mean every minute of every day needs to be about breast cancer. Get pampered with a friend or plan a nice dinner and a movie. You may want to take a vacation, or start a new book…anything that doesn’t involve talking about your health. Your mind can use a rest.
For those who are in the stages of starting a family or expanding a family, you may worry about how this diagnosis will affect your journey. The good news is, there are many options available for women diagnosed with breast cancer as well as for carriers of the BRCA gene mutation. The first step is to seek out the expertise of a reputable fertility specialist. Dr. William Schoolcraft, my fertility specialist and founder of CCRM, was an integral part in mapping out the best course of action for me and my husband and a year after my diagnosis, we welcomed our son Duke into our lives. As you can imagine, I am forever thankful to Dr. Schoolcraft and CCRM.
Lastly, this is a tip for those of you who have a loved one who was recently diagnosed: I like to say, “Don’t ask, tell.” Many people don’t want to be a burden to others and will often say they are “OK” if you ask if they need anything. Instead of saying, “Can I help you with groceries?” say, “I just dropped groceries and magazines off at your front door.” Instead of saying, “Can I plan a night out for you and I will watch the kids?” say, “I’ve made you a reservation at your favorite restaurant and will be over at 7 to watch the kids.” This type of love, friendship, and support go a long way.
4. Tell us about Fab-U-Wish (through The Pink Agenda) and how readers can become involved?
When I returned to work at E! after my double mastectomy, I remember looking in the mirror after getting my hair and makeup done. For the first time in a long time, I saw the face that I remembered before the breast cancer diagnosis, and it reminded me that I was still the same woman I was before the my world was rocked months earlier. That was a positive turning-point in my recovery, and I remember thinking to myself that I wish other women could feel that way.
Shortly after, FAB-U-WISH was born. We grant wishes to women going through breast cancer treatment as a way to forget about cancer for a little while and just smile and be happy! The program has brought joy to many lives and, in turn, has brought me extraordinary joy and happiness. I encourage anyone who knows someone going through breast cancer treatment to please nominate her (or yourself!) for a FAB-U-WISH. As someone who has been on the receiving end of many fulfilled wishes in her journey, I can say that a wish come true can sure feel like a dream.