I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007, and spent much of the rest of that year in treatment or recovery mode. It wasn't until much later that I could even begin to reflect on the whole experience and to try to give it some meaning.
A quote I found as I began that process really struck me: "It is what it is. It becomes what you make it." The last year had happened. No amount of regrets or second guessing was going to change anything there but....what was I going to make out of it?
I thought back to when I was first diagnosed and going through treatment, and although I appreciated everything people had done for me, what helped me the most was when friends and acquaintances who had gone through breast cancer themselves reached out to me with sympathy, understanding, and with the unspoken message, "I got through this, and you can too." Knowing how much their support and practical advice had meant to me, I decided that by doing the same, I could make something positive come out of my experience.
So, I have tried to help ladies out both locally and on the BCO discussion threads with encouragement, tips, and some of the things I've learned through research and/or personal experience. I knew when I joined the boards that I wanted to help others, but what I didn't foresee was that the boards would become a great source of encouragement, friendship, and even fun, for me. (If you haven't checked out the Humor and Games Forum, you should!).
A group of us from the 'Let's Post Our Daily Exercise' thread has taken the step from online to real-life friendship and we have taken several fabulous vacations together, meeting up with other great local BCO gals at our various destinations. I am always amazed when we are together and I reflect on the fact that none of us would have ever met (and had our lives so enriched) without our common, and really bad, experience of breast cancer.
So, my advice to newbies would be to do your research, do what you need to do medically, and then MAKE something positive come out of this...that choice is ours!
--ruthbru, North Dakota, USA