She was prepared for some invasive procedures, countless appointments and more than a few injections.
But what actually happened as Giuliana Rancic began her IVF process back in the fall of 2011 truly left her floored. Informed that part of the standard operating procedure at Denver's Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine was a mammogram, she was surprised. At just 36, she was four years away from having to undergo the annual breast cancer screening. And with no family history, she was confident she'd sail right through.
That assurance didn't waver even after a speck meant a repeat test was required. Or when her doctor recommended a needle biopsy. It wasn't until she was sitting in the waiting room at L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that "I started getting a really weird vibe," she wrote in her 2016 memoir Going Off Script. "Something just came over me."
Now nine years removed from that shocking early breast cancer diagnosis, and the double mastectomy and five years of medication that followed, it feels almost kismet that her and husband Bill Rancic's journey to welcoming son Duke, now 8, quite literally saved her life.
It also gave E!'s busy host a new mission. Having founded FAB-U-WISH in late 2011 with the intention of empowering those dealing with breast cancer to feel their very best, she's partnered with the Pink Agenda to grant wishes to more than 300 patients.
As she preps for Thursday night's annual Pink Agenda ball—the event having gone virtual this year due to COVID, now people from all over the world can join in the celebration and bid during the live auction as they raise funds to grant wishes and aid research—she shares her journey with E! News and the message she feels every woman needs to hear.
I definitely feel like it was fate that I discovered my breast cancer the way I did. I was 36 and going through IVF and my doctor, Dr. William Schoolcraft, told me that part of the CCRM protocol is for patients to get a mammogram.
It was through that mammogram that I discovered I had breast cancer. So trust me when I say I am very thankful to my doctor as well as my son, Duke, since I wouldn't have found it early if I wasn't trying to have a baby at that time. If I hadn't been proactive about my health, I may not have found my breast cancer until my first mammogram at 40, which would have been a few years later.
I didn't know much about breast cancer until I got it myself so I started reading everything I could on it and speaking to everyone I knew who had experience with it. I got second and third opinions on my surgery options, as well as treatment options, and am so happy I did. It's so important to do that with any diagnosis.
I had two surgeries which led to my bigger surgery, which was my double mastectomy. I then was on daily medication for five years, which like the surgery, definitely had it's tough moments. I think looking forward to becoming a mom and then eventually becoming one helped take my mind off my recovery and treatment, which was a good thing for sure.
My husband played an incredible role for me during that time and really helped keep me from catastrophizing every single thing. Instead, he kept me focused on the facts and professional opinions instead of getting caught up in everything I was reading online. He pulled out a legal pad for all of our big decisions and called it his "99 cent solution." And it worked! Writing out the pros and cons of each option and seeing it on paper and not just having it float around in my head—which made me nervous and antsy—really helped me see clearer and in turn make better, more informed decisions during that challenging time in my life.
When I felt good enough to go back to work after surgery, I remember sitting in the hair and makeup chair and I was so preoccupied looking down at my phone as I texted with my doctor and husband, that when I looked up, I saw myself in the mirror and had a poignant moment.
For the first time in a long time, I recognized the face looking back at me as the woman before the breast cancer diagnosis and it was powerful for me. In that instance, I felt like my old self again and it really helped my healing process begin. That night, I told my husband about this and shared with him that I wish other women could feel like this too, and that is how FAB-U-WISH was created.
FAB-U-WISH is a program that grants wishes to women going through breast cancer to help them feel like themselves again, if even for a moment. Soon after my idea came to fruition, I partnered with The Pink Agenda and to date, we have granted over 300 wishes! Having created FAB-U-WISH and granting these wishes is one of the most rewarding aspects of my life.
I don't worry about a recurrence like I used to, but I definitely stay on top of my health and yearly appointments and am also doing what I can to be proactive. If we don't put ourselves and our own health on our to-do lists, who will?
The key here is to make sure you are putting a mammogram on your to-do list every single year from 40 on and if you are under 40, make sure to do a monthly self-exam. Most women I meet who have had breast cancer tell me they found it themselves by feeling something on or around their breasts, so I can't stress the importance of doing self-exams at home each month and at your yearly check-up each year. Breast cancer has a very high survival rate if found early, so the key truly is to find it as early as you can.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my 30s, I was perfectly healthy and had no family history, so you can imagine the shock I felt.
I knew if I could get it, anyone could get it. That realization, combined with my job on E! that gives me an incredible platform to reach millions of women around the world, is what drove me to go public.
When I hear women say they got their first mammogram or they do breast checks more regularly because of my story, I am reminded that sharing my story was absolutely the right decision. To help change a life or save a life, I would share it all over again in a heartbeat.
It's important to know what your body looks and feels like so that if a change occurs, you will have a better chance of recognizing the change. It's never too late or too soon to start self-exams. How about right now?
For more information on FAB-U-WISH and The Pink Agenda, visit thepinkagenda.org and to register for the Oct. 8 event, click here.