The Home Edit's Clea Shearer Reveals She Has Breast Cancer: 'If Anyone Can Crush Cancer, It's Me'

Organizer to the stars Clea Shearer tells PEOPLE she's been diagnosed with invasive mammary carcinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer

Clea Shearer
Photo: Courtesy Clea Shearer

Clea Shearer had just released her first-ever magazine issue, announced the acquisition of her company, and was about to start promotions for the second season of her hit Netflix series when everything came to a very sudden halt.

The professional organizer and star of Get Organized with the Home Edit, 40, was in New York City to film a segment for the Today show with her co-star, best friend and business partner Joanna Teplin when she found two small lumps in her right breast during a self-exam. Within a few weeks, she learned she had stage 1 invasive mammary carcinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer.

"I felt something, a mass, a lump. But I didn't know what a lump actually even felt like, so I was just in my hotel room Googling, 'What does a breast tumor feel like?' " Shearer tells PEOPLE exclusively.

Clea Shearer, Joanna Teplin
Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer. Netflix

She had just turned 40, the age at which it's commonly suggested to get your first mammogram, in February, and had been trying to pencil one in amid her busy promotion schedule.

When she found the lump, she called her OBGYN immediately, but was told the soonest appointment was in May. It was the last week of February.

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Uncertain and anxious, she tried her primary care doctor, who, luckily, was able to order her a test within a few days. "I went in for a mammogram and then it turned into an ultrasound and the ultrasound came back as 'suspicious and concerning,' which led to an emergency triple biopsy, that same day," she recalls. "The radiologist at that point, pretty much confirmed that she would be shocked if this was anything but cancer, but we waited for the pathology to come back from the biopsy."

On March 11, she got the news.

"I think I had convinced myself, because of my age and because I don't have a history of breast cancer in my family, that it was something, but it would not be a cancerous tumor," she says. "It's crazy to look in the mirror and tell yourself that right now, as you're physically standing there, you are a person who has cancer. It's crazy to say it out loud. It was really scary and really, really, really emotional. At that point, I didn't know what stage it was. I didn't know if it had spread. You go into a pretty dark place until you have more information."

Clea Shearer
Courtesy Clea Shearer

The mom of two — she shares Stella, 11, and Sutton, 8, with her husband, photographer John Shearer — will undergo a double mastectomy surgery on Friday, she tells PEOPLE, after which it will be determined if she'll also need to do chemotherapy or other further treatment.

The hardest part, and the only subject that gets the star noticeably emotional when discussing, is breaking the news to Stella and Sutton — something she hadn't done yet as of Tuesday afternoon.

"I didn't want to tell them with too much advanced notice before my operation just because I think that it would be really hard for them to be carrying around that anxiety for the whole week," she says. "That's actually the part that I'm most nervous about. I know I'm going to be okay and I know that I'll be fine in surgery and recovery and all of it, but I'm nervous to tell my kids."

Clea Shearer
Liza Hippler, courtesy Clea Shearer

Clea has already broken the news to Teplin, who has been by her side throughout. "Joanna is really strong," she says. "She just leapt immediately to, 'We're going to beat this. We're going to get through this together. We're going to do whatever we have to do.' "

She also turned to another close friend and breast cancer survivor: Christina Applegate.

"[Christina] was my first phone call and my second and the last few, too," Clea says of Applegate, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and underwent a double mastectomy as well as having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

The Married... with Children alum was one of Clea's first organizing clients and helped her become the go-to for many an A-lister. "She's just incredible and she has had a very similar situation, so she's been a tremendous support and just someone who's really counseled me going through this."

Joanna Teplin (left) and Clea Shearer with Reese Witherspoon to announce the acquisition of The Home Edit by Witherspoon's production company, Hello Sunshine. Katie Kauss/Getty

Clea and Teplin, are known for orchestrating amazing makeovers for regular clients and celebrities like Chris Pratt and Reese Witherspoon (whose production company Hello Sunshine recently acquired The Home Edit), often with tight deadlines and under extremely stressful circumstances.

As fans of Get Organized and the pair's nearly 6 million Instagram followers know, Clea is the crunch-time closer, shouting orders to their team and tackling the physical labor of the job to make sure everything is picture perfect. So when it comes to her outlook on her diagnosis and treatment, it should come as no surprise that she's facing it with determination and focus.

"I'm a fighter. If anyone can crush cancer, it is me," she says. "I'm literally afraid for cancer and I've got this. Even though I know that I'll be scared the night before, and I'm sure, in the first weeks of recovery, I'll be pretty grumpy, but it doesn't mean that I feel any less resolute about absolutely nailing it and putting cancer in my rearview."

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Clea Shearer
Courtesy Clea Shearer

Her coworkers have found a special way to show their support: employees of The Home Edit, Hello Sunshine and Candle Media will surprise her by wearing buttons that read "Clea kicks cancer" designed by Leah Hasson, the friend who originally introduced Clea and Teplin.

For now, she's determined to use her platform to encourage other women to look out for their health.

"If I can make my cancer purposeful, [I want to] have people understand that if you feel anything amiss, you have to say something. You might not get a response from your doctor that you like. They might push it off and say you don't need a test or we'll get you in at your next physical. But we know our body's best," she says. "Self-examining is the best thing you can possibly do and it costs nothing. Self-examining is what saved me. I think I would be in a very different scenario right now had I not pushed this through myself."

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