Maria’s Story in Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What a nightmare. It still haunts me.

What began as a wonderful Italian vacation where me and my husband visited Venice, Florence and Rome, ended with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Before leaving for Europe, I had to have a breast biopsy. Years of abnormal calcifications on my mammograms and a high-risk history finally reached the point that my doctor suggested talking to a surgeon. After the biopsy, the surgeon called and said not to worry and go ahead on our vacation. When we came back, we learned that the specimen had been sent to Johns Hopkins for special studies and, indeed, I had breast cancer.

It had been caught early, but we were told cancer at age 40 is unusual and often aggressive. Surgery, chemo and radiation followed in a seemingly endless parade. It took nine months to be done with it and another three months to feel human again. I was finally doing well when I learned my mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

Then the scarring caused more abnormal mammograms and we opted for a total bilateral mastectomy. Then reconstruction. Then revisions every few years due to scarring and other problems with the radiated skin.

It is very much in the present for me. Every day when I look in the mirror, I am reminded. The fear, the difficult treatment, the recovery… Sometimes it is hard to feel feminine.

But in the end, I am grateful. I would never have gotten through it without the love and support of my family and my friends. My husband was my rock. He never let on how much my illness affected him.

Now, every day when the sun comes up, I go outside to take in a breath of crisp Northwest air and thank God for the blessings I have received. Even the hardships make you stronger. But it is also sad how this sisterhood continues to grow.

By Maria D Ramzi, Laboratory Director at Delta Direct Care formerly Patient Direct Care

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