IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: 13 Years Later

Patient Story

There are some things she learned through her treatment and some things she wished she knew. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time for education about the disease. As Cynthia Quimby looks back 13 years ago she shares her thoughts about life after diagnosis of breast cancer.

It was her 47th birthday. Cynthia Quimby had no idea that her daughter had planned a surprise party for 100 close friends and family members. She entered the room with a stoic face and a bag of frozen peas on her breast. She had just had a biopsy. She has just learned that she had breast cancer.

“Looking back now I think it was a blessing to have that surprise. It took my mind off the diagnosis,” said Quimby, who turned 60 in April. “It was a way to celebrate life even in the face of bad news.” Married for 37 years to Chris Quimby, Cynthia is the mother to Christa Snyder and Matthew Quimby. She has four grandchildren ages nine to nine months.

“I had been going for my mammogram annually but when my mother passed, I lost track and 18 months passed since my last mammogram,” said Quimby, who was treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and a lumpectomy. To date, she has had no reoccurrences. “I was in a support group and other women would have reoccurrences and I’d feel guilty because I was healthy,” said Quimby. Over time, she’s learned that guilt doesn’t help heal. She’s also learned this:

  • A support group is critical. “That was so helpful to me to hang around ladies going through the same thing that could share the same feelings, reactions, visions, and hope,” said Quimby. “We even got together at a lady’s house and tried on her closet full of wigs. We had a ball just laughing.”
  • Take advantage of resources. “I got hold of the IWIN Foundation supporting women with breast cancer and qualified for massage therapy. A lot of times I would go right before chemotherapy and it helped me relax.”
  • Surround yourself with positive people. “I relied on my prayer warriors at Venture Christian Church to build me up.”
  • Be careful not to shut others out. “My husband went with me to every chemo treatment and sat right beside me. I involved my family. I wanted to be positive and I wanted to share it. It was easier to talk about it than to hide it. “
  • Do research. “I wanted to make sure we were doing the right stuff and make sure the feelings and concerns were normal.”
  • Read and keep a journal. “I read a lot of humorous books. It’s ok to laugh.”
  • Celebrate the good days. “I’d go have a facial, go for a walk, see a movie, or have lunch with a friend.”
  • Talk about the importance of mammograms with others. “I’m a dental hygienist and my patients who at least 35, I ask if they have had a mammogram. I want to encourage them to take ownership of their health.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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