Joan Lunden: Finding Out I Had Cancer 'Was Like Being Hit by a Train'

The breast cancer survivor is being honored at a gala on Thursday.

Cancer survivor Joan Lunden has recalled the moment she found out that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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“I just never thought I'd hear those words - ‘You have cancer’ - because I didn't have it in my family,” she told INSIDE EDITION. "It was like being hit by a train."

The journalist will be honored at a Susan G. Komen gala at the Kennedy Center on Thursday night in Washington, D.C.

Lunden writes of her battle in Had I Known, her memoir of survival. She’s now disease-free after aggressive treatment.

“Just weeks before she died, she looked at me and she said, ‘You know, when I get better, I want you to promise me you’ll help me cure this disease.”

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That promise was made in 1980 - by Nancy Brinker to her dying sister, Susan Komen, in whose memory Brinker named the foundation. Back then, there were no breast cancer charities, no races for the cure, no pink ribbon campaigns.

"It was a disease that people wouldn’t even talk about. I knew we had to do something to put a name, a face on this and make it personal,” said Brinker.

The Komen Foundation says it's invested more than $2 billion in research and / or awareness efforts.

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