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It’s been seven months since Joan Lunden was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a rare and aggressive type of the disease that required 16 rounds of chemotherapy and a lumpectomy by the end of 2014.
Since then, she's become an advocate for breast cancer awareness and health advocacy, empowering women to take control of their well-being — all while fighting for her life.
Earlier this month, she began radiation, undergoing the treatment Monday through Friday for six weeks.
After a rough December, Lunden is feeling well, a little tired but hopeful the chemotherapy side effects will diminish soon and that maybe she’ll even see some of her hair grow back, she told TODAY.
Her focus now is her new book, due out in September, which she describes as a “tell-all honest, emotional, memoir” about her cancer journey.
Here are Lunden’s seven tips for getting through breast cancer or any other health crisis:
1. Don’t read the Internet. "It can be a scary place. I worked hard to stay 'offline' and boy, am I glad I did. Too much information can be confusing and often misleading, especially as it pertains to our health. Remember, every patient is different," she said. Stick to expert advice from people in charge of your care.
2. Ask your doctor lots of questions. Physicians can sometimes be intimidating, but don’t let them. Approach your doctor appointments as you would a business meeting: Prepare an agenda and a list of questions to make the most of your time. We are all our own health advocates. Find the answers to anything that you’re not clear about.
3. Seek out support. "I hear from too many women who are fighting their fight alone," Lunden said. Whether it’s with family, friends, online forums or social media, find a support group. Sharing information in groups can be therapeutic. Lunden learned there are also many local community programs across the country, often hosted by larger cancer organizations, that offer great events in the area. Check with your local hospital for information.
4. Understand there are no short-term solutions. Facing a health crisis can be very be overwhelming and for many people, treatment plans can require a lot of steps. But there are no shortcuts. Realize it’s only a few weeks or months out of your life.
5. Don’t let a bad day become a whole bad week or month. We all have our moments, but be sure to make an effort to stay positive. Keep things in perspective and stay optimistic.
6. Write yourself a prescription for a positive attitude. This is sometimes more important than your medications. Approach each day with positivity and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.
7. Be social. Even a walk outside or a movie with a good friend can can change your entire mood. It’s important to interact with others and surround yourself with love and friendship.