OCTOBER IS NATIONAL BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH (NBCAM)
Below are stories of women who survived breast cancer.
STORY #1 ~ DELIA DIMATAGA, now age 67
Towards the end of 2002, I had switched health insurance (from Kaiser to Health Net). I had a PPO insurance plan. I was feeling great. Then, my daughter told me to go for my annual check-up. I told her I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I had no health complaints. She encouraged me to go, anyway. In fact, she found a new doctor for me through the Health Net PPO Network. So in February 2003, I went to see Dr. Moshfeghi, who specialized in Internal Medicine. During the exam, she felt a lump in my left breast. She advised that I get a mammogram. When the mammogram results came back, she confirmed that there was a lump in my breast. She was very worried. She advised that I see a specialist. So, I saw Dr. Candela, a surgeon, who scheduled me for a biopsy right away. When he called me into his office to talk about the biopsy results, I knew that it wasn’t good news. Sure enough, Dr. Candela, told me I needed surgery. He explained the details of the mastectomy, and made sure I understood the whole process. Because the growth was very aggressive, he knew he had to operate before it spread to other parts of my body. I was crying as I left his office. I could not believe it. NO one in my family had cancer. I was the first one in my family to be diagnosed. I was 56 years old.
My surgery was scheduled for March 12, 2003. They removed my left breast. They also had to check if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body. Thank goodness, it hadn’t spread. Dr. Candela asked me if I wanted to get reconstructive surgery. I said “no”. I didn’t want to deal with the complications as I knew of several women who had problems after they had reconstructive surgery. I was just happy that they removed the cancer. Even though I had my left breast removed, it didn’t affect my self-esteem. It didn’t make me feel “less of a woman”. My team of doctors in West Hills Hospital (West San Fernando Valley) were terrific.
After surgery, I was given Vicodin for pain. Even though I just had surgery, I felt no physical pain, so I did not take any pain killers…no Vicodin, not even Tylenol. Shortly after that, I had 4 sessions of chemo-therapy, and I lost all of my hair. I had to wear a wig…and it was a stylish wig. My older daughter had just given birth to my 3rd grandchild, just a month before my surgery. When I was recovering at home, I kept myself active. I even helped take care of my youngest grandchild who was just 2 months old. Having my 3 grandkids around me was one of the reasons I recovered very quickly. During this whole recovery period, I did not take any pain killers. Thinking positive helped me go through this whole experience.
MY ADVICE TO WOMEN WHO ARE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER
Having cancer doesn’t mean you are going to die. Remember, what you think in your mind is manifested in the body. Be sure you have a good support system. My family was with me during the whole experience. Last but not the least, PRAY! Be Strong, Be Hopeful and Be Positive. You will get through it.
Also, make sure you are comfortable with your doctors. I was not happy that I had cancer, but I was glad that the team of doctors who took care of me from beginning to end were amazing. If Dr. Moshfeghi, was not thorough during my annual check-up, who knows where I would be today? Dr. Candela, my surgeon, was very compassionate. Dr. Zietz, my oncologist, always made me feel comfortable during chemotherapy treatments.
It is now 2013! I have been cancer-free for 10 years now.
Breast Cancer Survivor, age 67
Los Angeles, California