Tymekia Wilson wasn't due for her first yearly mammogram for another four years. But at age 36, after a visit with her gynecologist raised some concern, Wilson underwent screening and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I was in denial. I was in shock, and I told her to repeat it," Wilson said. "She repeated it at least four times.
"It didn't really hit me until I got in my car and I could not drive home. I had to sit there for a while."
Dr. Sameet Kumar is a clinical psychologist at Memorial Cancer Institute. He said newly diagnosed cancer patients can experience a flood of emotions that reaches far beyond the here and now.
"I think the uncertainty is really the hardest challenge that comes with a cancer diagnosis," Kumar said. "Not knowing what the future holds, not knowing what the treatments are going to be like, not knowing what's going to happen to you and to your family."
Those thoughts overwhelmed Wilson until she reached out to someone she loves and trusts.
"The first person I called was my mom," Wilson said. "She's the one who can calm me down and replace the negative thoughts with the positive."
Experts agree that having a support system in place can help cancer patients feel better and more hopeful, talk about and work through feelings, deal with practical problems and cope with the side effects of treatment.
The key is to find balance through stress management.
"It's important to have people by your side. It's even more important to have helpful people by your side, so you're informed, involved, but also not isolated," Kumar said.
Wilson didn't have to undergo chemotherapy, but she did choose to have a double mastectomy. It was a decision she made with her two children in mind and her mother by her side.
"Because they caught it early, I am cancer-free," Wilson said. "I can continue on and live a fulfilled life."