“Early detection is key,… And if I hadn’t found my lump early, I don’t know what would have been. I am still here and I want to encourage women to do that on a regular basis”: Olivia Newton-John
By Dominique Barba.
In Doral nobody is immune to this commemoration, as anywhere in the world, we use this month to reflect on this disease, how to prevent it, how to face it and how to overcome it. Through these lines we wanted to honor the struggle of thousands of women (and men too) and express to our readers hope is the last thing we lose, there’s always a way out and that through advances in science, though slowly, we are getting increasingly encouraging results. But the road is long and its still little information, how do we handle the situation?
We talked with a wonderful women, resident of Doral, who generously shared her struggle, but also her hope and gratitude. She is an example of courage, positivity and strength to face an unequal struggle against a monstrous evil, perhaps reading this stories some of our readers will see a light on their suffering and a glimmer of hope in their pain. That is our intention …
Marie Mustelier Brito
Our beautiful Puerto Rican never ceases to amaze, tall, thin, and simple hearted, won the affection of the people of the Doral Park Tennis Club from day one. Her sympathy was infectious and her joy was boundless. That’s how her game is, power and fun, it’s not for nothing that she has the best serve in the tennis club. The summer of 2010 she lead one of the women’s teams with pretty good results without predicting that the end of the season she would face the toughest challenge of her life, on September 13 2010 she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer…. And so the struggle began.
DFJ: Marie: What did you feel when you were told you had cancer? Marie: At that moment I felt my world ended, I thought of my 3 kids (Guillermo, Natalia and Ignacio) and what would happen to them? What about my family? For a few seconds I thought that my time was over, that I was doomed and that sooner or later everything was going to end for me.
DFJ: How much information did you have?
Marie: There is too much information, and not always correct. Before the Internet everything was in papers, magazines or books. Now, everything is on the Internet. I found a lot of information that far from helping me got me more confused.
DFJ: What was your first step?
Marie: Finding the right Doctor for me. I looked for the best doctors in my area; I did a lot of research and found a doctor who was compatible with me. I felt very comfortable with her and that made a world of difference. She was clear in explaining the entire procedure I was going to go through and was always there for me. But, even then, with something like this, your mind is constantly thinking all the different possible scenarios that may happen and they are usually the worst.
DFJ: what kind of cancer were you diagnosed with?
Marie: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (breast cancer) triple negative, Cat 4 in first stage. A very aggressive cancer type. The cancer had not spread outside the breast so, radiation was not necessary. I had a double mastectomy surgery on October 5, 2010 (even though the cancer was only located in my right breast). The decision to do a double mastectomy was a personal one. Patients should consider all their options. For me, this was the right one. I had subsequent chemotherapy treatment (first session was in November and the last was on February 21, 2011). My final procedure was reconstructive breast surgery in April 2011.
DFJ: Did you do any checks prior to it?
Marie: mammogram and sonograms every year because my sister suffered the same malady 6 years ago and I was considered a “high risk”. In addition, I examined myself frequently. It was during self-examination prior to a mammogram that I noticed a small lump in my breast.
DFJ: you are alive because of self-examination?
Marie: Yes, I was always on time with the medical checkups, but these are once a year. Self-examination is easy and can be done at any time. It does not cost anything, just a little effort.
DFJ: Do you think the cure for cancer is related to the economic possibilities of those who face it?
Marie: I never thought I was going to have it but when it happened, I realized that this disease does not discriminate and there are thousands of people with this disease who do not have the economic means to aggressively move forward with treatment. Therefore, it is very valuable and important that there are organizations who work to raise money and advocate with legislators to achieve fair laws and initiatives for the cause.
DFJ: Insurance makes the difference?
Marie: Unfortunately yes, with insurance less time is wasted waiting for authorizations tests or controls with the indicated doctor. Uninsured patients spend too much valuable time trying to find a way to pay for exams, then to pay for operations and chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Unfortunately, this is the case for many people. This is why I insist that prevention and early action goes a long way.
DFJ: How long did it take you to return to normal activities?
Marie: Two months after surgery I returned to tennis, between sessions of chemotherapy and before my reconstruction, I lost my hair and the saliva in my mouth dried up. I could not taste or enjoy the food but that was not important, I just wanted to live.
DFJ: How did your family handle the situation?
Marie:”It was very difficult, my first concern was explaining to my children that I was ill, fortunately I had the support of my sister who came immediately and stood by me when I first broke the news to my children. For my children, seeing that she had survived the same situation and was now doing well, gave them encouragement and a lot of security. Little by little I also stopped being afraid of the diseases and was able to face it thanks to all the support I had.
DFJ: how important is the support of your family and friends?
Marie: It is vital, my family and friends never stopped encouraging me, many of my friends traveled from far to accompany me. Others wrote all the time and call me at home. Some of them even took turns doing my house chores. Friends took my kids to school and went with me to chemo. Guillermo, my husband, was very supporting throughout the entire time. I never saw him break but inside I know he suffered greatly. He was my stronghold, my fortress. I did not need therapy or counseling because the love they all gave me was immense. I have no way to repay so much love and understanding. Although it was the hardest moment of my life, it was also the happiest when I saw so many good standing there with me.
DFJ: What are your plans now?
Marie: Sharing my experience and helping others as they helped me. My daughter Natalia is going to lead with me one of the teams for the Doral Relay for Life. So young and already wants to be a doctor. I understand that now I have a mission, and it is to give, help and support other people going through cancer. Never surrender…