Surviving breast cancer: Seadrift woman shares her story, advice for others
Oct. 12, 2010 at 5:12 a.m.
The lump on Susan Rossello's left breast had to wait.
Amid her sister's funeral and planning who and how the family would take care of her father, her scheduled mammogram took the back seat.
"I didn't really have time to grieve," she said.
When she finally did have her mammogram a week later, there was more bad news.
She had breast cancer.
'A YEAR GONE OF OUR LIVES'
Walk into many stores during October and you will find dashes of pink memorabilia endorsing breast cancer awareness.
An estimated 207,090 women and 1,970 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
At least 39,840 women and 390 men are expected to die from the disease.
Rossello remembers the day in June 2009 when she was diagnosed like it was yesterday.
She had just had her mammogram and everything turned out fine.
But as she began to turn the doorknob to leave the doctor's office, the nurse told her more tests were needed, she said.
"It was frightening," she said. "I guess that is probably the best word I can use to describe it."
On July 1, she went in for a biopsy and told doctors if the lump she had was malignant to remove the breast and if it wasn't, then remove the lump.
When she came to, she had, had a mastectomy where eight of the 22 lymph nodes removed were cancerous.
She was diagnosed with HER2 positive, which is one of the more aggressive types of breast cancer.
Her mammogram the year before was fine, she said.
Her world began to close in on her, she said.
Her daughter was about to give birth, giving Rossello her last of seven grandchildren, she said.
She had been there for the births of all her other grandchildren and didn't want to miss this one.
She broke down.
Then her daughter told her the words that helped push her through the nearly year-and-a-half of chemotherapy and radiation she was about to face, she said.
"She (your granddaughter) would rather you dance at her wedding than attend her birth," Rossello said, quoting her daughter.
Rosello decided she hadn't lost yet. She had to beat the disease.
First on her list was to get support, so she joined Breast Friends, a Victoria support group of breast cancer survivors and patients.
The group was founded several years ago by Wendi DuVall, also a breast cancer survivor.
"I started Breast Friends very selfishly," DuVall said. "I needed people to talk to."
DuVall's journey for support has given other breast cancer survivors and patients a place to go.
The main mission of the group is to educate, support and network, she said.
"We feel we've bottled something magical," she said.
Rossello admitted, the group has done just that.
A NEW CHAPTER
Looking back, Rossello remembered seeing for the first time the red gelatinous-looking chemotherapy medicine creeping up to her mediport, which is another way to inject the medication rather than intravenously.
"I just laid there and cried," she said.
After several months of chemotherapy, in January, she was put on radiation for 34 days.
For the past several months she has been using herceptin, a medication that is taken by HER2 positive cancer patients after chemotherapy and radiation.
On Thursday, her journey ended.
Her mediport was removed.
"I kind of feel like that's a door being shut," she said teary-eyed, but with a smile. "We're going to close the door on cancer. It's gone."
Of course, cancer can always come back, and Rossello will have her first scan in December to make sure she's OK.
She will have several of these just to make sure she is still in remission, she said.
The fight against breast cancer has come a long way nationally and locally, said Dr. Ahmad Qadri, a Victoria oncologist.
Qadri has been in Victoria for eight years but has seen the fight grow stronger over the past 10-15 years, he said.
He has even seen events in the area flourish, he said.
"It has changed a lot. We are having new medications and new drugs and new targeted treatments," he said. "It has dramatically improved."
Qadri isn't sure if the world will see a cure for breast cancer anytime soon but did say the push to improve quality of life is always there.
Qadri sees women anywhere from 30 years old to 80, and some are healthy, and others, not so healthy.
Continuing to receive a mammogram once or twice a year is recommended and performing a self-examination once a month is also a great way to catch breast cancer early, he said.
Rossello stands as an example.
"It's a long hard road," she said. "It takes a lot of strength and a lot of prayers."
Rossello will continue going to Breast Friends to seek support, but now her role has changed.
"I'm hoping that I can give back to some people who need me like I needed them," she said. "Maybe I can help somebody else now who is having to go through this."