NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and 10 On Your Side is supporting the cause by sharing information that can help with prevention and fighting the disease. 

This week 10 On Your Side sat down with five local survivors who had wisdom to share after being diagnosed.

“I wish I would have allowed myself the chance to grieve the diagnosis I went right into; I had to protect everyone else,” said Cheri Crumbly.

“I wish I would have just cried it out, I didn’t really let it sink and I was the strongest of everyone,” said Shamelle Davis.

If only they could go back in time.

I would’ve been a little more healthier living,” said Kathleen Cepeda.

If only Jessica Wood had known after the shock of a diagnosis what she knows now. “That cancer doesn’t discriminate with breast cancer age. I was 33 when I was diagnosed and I did not have a family history.”

Crystal Reid also wishes she would have known about genetic testing. “My father passed away in ’05 from pancreatic cancer, his mother passed away from breast, so I didn’t know that until I was diagnosed.”

Suddenly there’s so much to consider. Wood encourages women to be their own advocate. “You can have more than one opinion from a doctor,” Reid said. 

Cepeda added, “Research your providers and don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m not going to go with this doctor. I’m going to keep looking.'” 

Treatment tested all of the women in one way or another.

“Sometimes I would wake up and didn’t want to get out of bed because my joints would hurt me,” Cepeda said.

Reid recalled, “Certain chemos will have you gain weight.”

While Wood told us, “I wish I would’ve known to make sure I stayed extra hydrated during chemotherapy I think extra would ward off the neuropathy.”

They recalled the mounds of medication, scarring, and reconstruction. 

Davis explained, “putting those implants in when you first get them done, it’s not ‘oh, I got a boob job!’ … as people think you’re getting a boob job, no.”

There is nothing natural about any of it.

“I have two years, I still have that PTSD of the cancer,” Cepeda said.

But there is hope. Crumbly’s advice to the newly diagnosed is this: “The best thing for you to do is find people that can lift you up and encourage you, because the only way to get through this journey is positivity and encouragement.”

“Stay positive!” Wood compels, because there is life after cancer.