Breast cancer survivor Gretta Monahan on fear of reoccurrence: 'It lives with you'

"I wasn't even thinking about ... how breast cancer would leave me," she said.

October 24, 2022, 8:27 AM

"The View" lifestyle expert Gretta Monahan is cancer free, but she still feels the impact of her breast cancer diagnosis.

Three years ago, Monahan revealed on national television that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, she joins co-host Sara Haines to share a different side of what being a breast cancer survivor looks like.

PHOTO: During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, lifestyle expert Gretta Monahan shares her breast cancer journey and shines a light on mental health as a survivor with "The View" co-host Sara Haines.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, lifestyle expert Gretta Monahan shares her breast cancer journey and shines a light on mental health as a survivor with "The View" co-host Sara Haines.
ABC News/ Nicolette Cain

"I am cancer free. To say that is amazing," Monahan told Haines. "I feel like I'm getting to that point where I feel the best I've felt physically since the day I was diagnosed."

On May 1, 2019, Monahan's doctors gave her the news that she had breast cancer. For Monahan, learning of the diagnosis was one thing, but she says she is still haunted by having to impart the news to her loved ones.

At the time, her youngest son, Rio, was almost 2 years old, and her oldest son, Kai, was 9 years old. After waiting on further tests and confirmations, Monahan shared her diagnosis with them on Mother's Day.

"I'll never forget that moment. People ask me all the time what was the hardest part? And I always say telling Kai," Monahan said. "I told him that day and he looked at me and said, 'Mommy, are you going to die?'"

"It was a moment," Monahan said with tears in her eyes.

Monahan went on to say that when someone is diagnosed, "everyone" in your life is "fighting" alongside you. "They’re fighting through the surgeries, they are there when you wake up, if you're blessed. And I was, so I couldn't ask for more support."

Despite the moral support from friends, family and colleagues, Monahan said that the "aftermath" of "how breast cancer would leave" her never crossed her mind.

"I thought, when I ring that bell, everything's going to go back to normal; everything's going to go back to how it was before," she said. "My life is amazing, but it is not like it was before."

As a mother, Monahan said it's when her children are safe and tucked into their beds that intrusive thoughts about her past diagnosis come to mind: "What if this ever came back? What if I can't be here for them?"

"It lives with you," she continued. "During the survival marathon, you are totally focused on that ... When you go back, the picture is a lot different."

"You're never able to really drop the feeling ... that there is potential for reoccurrence," Monahan told Haines, which ultimately creates underlying fear and anxiety. Yet, facing something that could take away her cherished life is what makes Monahan's personal gratitude "grow."

Part of overcoming her mental health challenges includes channeling appreciation for life every day. Monahan has also focused on her work as an advocate for women going through their fight against breast cancer.

"Please, have a voice. Have a voice about your health, your own health, your own well-being," Monahan said. "Self advocacy is key."

She also asks women to pay special attention to their mental health regularly because it "builds up resilience."

Haines, who's shared her own struggles with postpartum depression, added, "You gotta put your oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else."

More than anything, Monahan urges women, "Get your screenings, do your breast self-examinations ... Put it in your calendar!"

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