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The World of Breast Cancer Through the Eyes of a Survivor

With Breast Cancer Awareness month among us, I found myself reflecting on how it has affected my own life. One of the most amazing people in my life was diagnosed 9 years ago in 2011– My aunt, Karen Pineau. Karen has always been close to me, and an important part of my life since I was young. She is someone who shows her care for others in a selfless manner, always makes sure you know how loved you are, and not to mention, she always makes me laugh! She serves as amazing comedic relief for my life. In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, I decided to dive into the complex world of having breast cancer by interviewing her to further understand what she has gone through.

HerCampus: What were your first emotions upon diagnosis?

Karen Pineau: To be honest, I thought ‘Oh my God am I gonna die…What will my children do without me, what if I lose my hair?’ I was terrified.

HC: How did you get through your journey? (Mindset, support systems etc.)

KP: My husband Dustin helped with the logistics of it all– taking the day off to bring me to appointments, scheduling with me, etc. [also] My emotional support came from my good friends, my sister Kelly, and my mother. They held the pieces together. I also tried to reach out to people that had already gone through it to help me navigate the process.

HC: What was the scariest part of your journey?

KP: I think the scariest part was getting the news of course, and then going to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute because it made it all feel so real, and so big. You walk in there, and it’s all about cancer. It’s not like going to the hospital when there are a bunch of different illnesses around you. Everyone there had cancer, you walk in there, and there’s no denying you have cancer.

HC: Is there anything you wish you would’ve known about the process?

KP: I guess I didn’t realize how long everything took. Between every surgery, there was a week, results took 7-10 days, and I always thought ‘well something must’ve gone wrong,’ but that’s not always the case. Just because you have to wait doesn’t mean you’ll get a bad outcome. 

HC: What did you learn from having breast cancer?

KP: Things that I felt were big in my life suddenly felt small. I was caught up in the little things that were so important, but I learned that the most important thing while fighting cancer was staying alive. I also learned the value of little gestures, no matter how small, because small things make such an impact. People sent over dinners, and gestures like that are what I hold onto. I learned that little things make the hard things easier to tolerate. I really learned that life can change in a moment.

HC: If you could magically change the fact that you had breast cancer and end up never having been diagnosed with it, would you? Why?  

KP: Yeah, truly, I guess I wouldn’t have wanted it. After having it, I have this fear that since I had it, my daughter and grandkids are more susceptible…and I know it is not necessarily genetic, but I cannot wrap my head around that concept– because at 37 and healthy, I always question why that happened to me. I would not want to go through it again.

HC: What do you want to tell others about breast cancer who may not be educated on the severity of it?

KP: Do your self exam, and don’t ignore your gut instincts!

HC: What do you do now as a survivor, to aid others around you who are going through breast cancer?

KP: I am a part of the Making Strides against Breast Cancer of Cape Cod organization. I am on their committee, helping promote events for fundraisers, getting donations, and finding other volunteers like my daughter Jordyn and her field hockey team, who were able to volunteer at our annual awareness walk.

“You have breast cancer” are words no one wants to hear. For my Aunt Karen, it was a sentence that soon changed her life. However, with the support of family, friends and an entire community of survivors backing her, she was able to power through and come out on the other side as an incredibly strong survivor surrounded by those who were there for her journey. Thank you to Karen for sharing her story, and many thanks to those who also devote their time to spreading awareness, volunteering, fundraising and sharing their own stories. 

Kayla Plunkett

Delaware '23

Kayla is a sophomore art major at the University of Delaware. Aside from being a part of Her Campus, she keeps up with new music, all things artsy, and of course, tik tok.
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