There is not much that slows me down. I admit, I am a “full-blooded, 100 percent in-your-face Italian woman”. I live an fully active life, and I have a wonderful family with husband, Greg, and our three beautiful children; Mariella, William, and Jack.
Even when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2013, I was ready. Just a decade earlier, I had helped my sister, Lauren; deal with her own breast cancer. I thought I knew what to expect.
The beginning of my road to recovery was rocky. My first experience with a care provider after my diagnosis went poorly, so I researched other options. After a second unpleasing experience, I turned to Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.
I was diagnosed with stage I invasive ductile carcinoma. In December 2013, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by breast reconstruction surgery in March 2014. Both surgeries were performed at the Medical Center.
I didn’t know much about Penn State Hershey at the time. My first encounter was with my surgical oncologist, Dr. J. Stanley Smith. He was wearing these amazing red cowboy boots, and at the end of our meeting, he took his card and wrote ‘Any time for anything. I’m going to take care of you like you were my sister.’ And I knew then, this was the place for me.
I give credit to Dr. Smith, Dr. Mackay, and the entire Penn State Hershey care team for inspiring me throughout my recovery.
Both Dr. Smith and Dr. Mackay were so calming; I just had so much trust in them. They went through everything clearly, and were dead-on with their assessments. And my oncologist, Dr. Leah Cream–I loved her! The whole team was amazing.
Of course, my family was also a huge inspiration throughout the process. My sister Lauren was there for me, returning the favor from a decade ago (by the way, Lauren is now cancer-free.) My 14- year-old daughter Mariella wanted to be there for the entire nine-hour surgery so she would be the first person I would see when I opened my eyes in the recovery unit. (Mariella now wants to become a radiologist). And, thanks to my wonderful husband Greg’s razor-sharp wit, I would laugh when I needed it most.
Dealing with breast cancer isn’t easy. Greg was able to be me when I couldn’t be.
I am now cancer-free, and am back to a life full of fast-walking and Pilates, volunteering at my sons’ school, and living life to the fullest.