Finding out you have breast cancer can spark a rollercoaster of emotions, from fear after diagnosis, determination during treatment and elation after receiving the all clear.
But what’s important to remember is everyone’s experience of breast cancer is different and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel.
To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are 10 famous faces who’ve opened up about their experience of the disease.
Dame Maggie Smith
Having cancer can knock your confidence and even film stars like Dame Maggie Smith aren’t immune.
“It leaves you so flattened,” the actress said following her cancer treatment. “I’m not sure I could go back to theatre work, although film work is more tiring. I’m frightened to work in theatre now. I feel very uncertain. I haven’t done it for a while.”
Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, but she refuses to let the disease define her.
“Having had cancer, one important thing to know is you’re still the same person at the end. You’re stripped down to near zero,” she told Good Housekeeping back in 2014.
“But most people come out the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before.”
After her cancer diagnosis in 2009, Jennifer Saunders penned a humorous piece on the realities of treatment.
“The first time you have chemo is a bit scary, because you have no idea how you’re going to feel,” she said.
“But let me tell you this: it’s basically like the most enormous hangover you’ve ever had in your whole life; it’s like a night on mixed spirits, wine and grappa. It’s a real cracker. It’s a humdinger.”
Earlier this year, Shannen Doherty said “the unknown” is the worst part of living with breast cancer.
“The unknown is always the scariest part,” she told ET Online.
“Is the chemo going to work? Is the radiation going to work? You know, am I going to have to go through this again, or am I going to get secondary cancer? Everything else is manageable. Pain is manageable, you know living without a breast is manageable, it’s the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love.”
When Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, she learned that sometimes it’s important to put yourself first.
“I learned very quickly how important it was for me to think positively,” she said on her website.
“When the second friend I called with the news burst into tears, I thought – this is too stressful. I had to find someone else to handle the day to day discussions of my health so I could concentrate on healing.”
Dennis Van Tine/ABACA USA
In 2011, Wanda Sykes said her twins, who were just two years old at the time, were one of the reasons she opted to have a double mastectomy.
“We never hid anything from the kids. They were a huge part of my decision because I wanted to be around for them,” she told People magazine.
“I feel whole again, I really do. I’ve told them, ‘Mommy’s boo-boo is much better now.'”
Matt Crossick/PA Archive
Sharon Osbourne decided to have a double mastectomy in 2012 after discovering she has a faulty breast cancer gene, having already had treatment for the disease once.
“For me, it wasn’t a big decision, it was a no-brainer. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with that shadow hanging over me,” she said at the time.
“I didn’t even think of my breasts in a nostalgic way, I just wanted to be able to live my life without that fear all the time.”
“It’s not ‘pity me’, it’s a decision I made that’s got rid of this weight that I was carrying around.”
In an interview shortly after her diagnosis, Janice Dickinson admitted she became scared for herself, but also for her family, when she was given a prognosis.
‘It’s still quite shocking. Today I got very scared… I just get very scared and it hit me [sic]. But I am not gonna let that define me, the fear,” she said.
“I became fearful for my two children, my loving fiancé Rocky, we have a grandson, aged four, his name is baby Aby. I just thought they are gonna flip out.”
Juan Naharro Gimenez via Getty Images
Cynthia Nixon had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.
In 2008, she said being the daughter of a cancer survivor helped her get through the difficult period.
“As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, knowing my personal risk made me more aware and more empowered when I faced my own diagnosis,” she said.
“I want to help Susan G. Komen for the Cure [breast cancer charity] educate the 1.1 million women around the globe who face a diagnosis each year.”
Anastacia Lyn Newkirk
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Anastacia Lyn Newkirk was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 then again in 2013, and decided to have a double mastectomy to stop the cancer from spreading.
She’s now raising money for Cancer Research UK by appearing on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
“After beating breast cancer twice, I’m really passionate about trying to do something to help change the odds for others who are affected by this terrible disease,” she says on her fundraising page.
“It’s so important for everyone to know what’s normal for them and see their doctor with any changes, as spotting cancer at an early stage can make a huge difference.”