Reagan van Antwerp: People’s Emotional Reactions To My Cancer Diagnosis

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In an insightful guest blog, Reagan van Antwerp, talks about living with cancer.

Reagan, a 38-year-old Michigan woman, recently learned she has breast cancer. While the exact diagnosis is unknown, she awaits surgery to discover the full details. Under the ”amazing care at St. Mary’s Comprehensive Breast Center,” Reagan is “leaning toward a bilateral mastectomy because it reduces the chances of recurrence.”

Along the lines of Angelina Jolie‘s recent news, Reagan is “getting tested for the genetic mutations, BRCA1 or BRCA2 in which case they will also remove my ovaries.”

A self-professed “fighter, educator, and humorist,” Reagan shares her first guest blog on a unique topic: other peoples’ reactions to her diagnosis. Continue reading her insightful observations of how people have reacted to her cancer diagnosis.


“Today, we are going to talk about emotions.

Not mine. Yours.


Well, through this experience, I have discovered a few things about people’s emotional reactions.

They run the gamut, from shocked, to angry, to devastated, to even-keeled, to not knowing what to say period.



Unless you are laughing because I got cancer, in which case you are a dingus, and probably not reading this, whatever you are feeling is OKAY. They don’t give you a handbook (well, I don’t know. I do have the GREAT BIG BOOK OF YOU HAVE FUCKING CANCER (see below). It might be in there…)). I know because I am young (very, very, very young), this is the first time a lot of us are hit with this personally.

You will not say anything that will offend me.

You will not ask anything that I won’t answer. Read my little bio here. It’s my new mantra. And it’s all about educating, no matter what the subject matter. I am as serious about that, as I have ever been about anything in my life.

On that note, if you don’t say anything at all, I will not feel shunned. A month ago, I wasn’t great at reacting to this kind of thing. Been there. I don’t take it personally (I know you looooove me). I am not sticking pins in a voodoo doll, or at least, no more than before.


If you do want to talk about your feelings, but are hesitating because you feel like if you do, you are making this all about you, I understand that you would think that, but <sigh> you are so off base, even though you are trying so hard. And I get that, I really do. You are my friend/family member/coworker, and this is not about you, or me, at that moment. In our relationship, it is about us. COME ON. I mean it. JESUS. If I didn’t like to hear myself talk I wouldn’t have started a blog. Communicate with me (even if you don’t know me well, even better), and be as candid as you wish. I could go on for days. You might regret being open just because you won’t shut me up.

Class dismissed (isn’t it happy hour? Mmmmm. Wine.).”

For more from Reagan, check out her blog Damn It I Have Cancer.

For inspiration on her next guest blog, leave your comments, questions and thoughts for Reagan in the comments below.

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Reagan van Antwerp

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  1. U know how much I adore U, Reag. Have since we met. We’ve witnessed each other’s trials and tribulations and we came out OK after about 10 years, I believe. U got a real big strong friend and family base…and that will never change. I know U would do the same 4 any one of us. Don’t be afraid 2 reach out 2 any of us 4 anything…and never let this thing stop U from being U. U are allowed 2 pause….but never stop.

    Love U, babes.
    I’m in your corner.

  2. Cindy Kadish

    Reagan…THANK YOU! The day I heard your diagnosis, I had my annual mammogram. Boy, this is the 1st time it was a bit scary because i was/am still processing the information about you. Got my ‘all clear” letter this week … now it’s as if I feel guilty for getting an all clear–is that nuts or what?
    The attitude you are showing thru your FB and blog is tremendous! As humans, we will have things that SUCK and we all gotta be able to share with each other.
    Keep letting us know how you feel…not just physically but emotionally as well. It’s how you will keep sane and maybe bring us with ya!


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