Survivors of the Week: Arnaldo S. and Vanessa W.

Arnaldo was diagnosed with breast cancer after being misdiagnosed initially and told it was just fatty tissue and not to worry. After a year went by and the lump in his chest got bigger, he went for a second opinion — he had breast cancer and carried the BRCA 2 gene. He urged both his son and daughter to get checked. As it turned out, they both carried the gene, but only Vanessa, 32 at the time, had breast cancer. The two went through chemotherapy together, the hospital called them the "Rock Stars of the Hospital" because they had never seen anything like this. Five years later, both Arnaldo and his daughter Vanessa cancer free.

Arnaldo:

When were you diagnosed?
2007

Are you cancer-free? If so, for how long?
Yes, 6 years!

How have your family and friends helped you?
Just by talking with me.

What tips do you have to help other breast cancer survivors stay positive?
Stay positive! It's not a death sentence. Technology has come a long way, so don't think the worst. Focus on your recovery.

What has someone done to make you feel better?
My friend Cheri always keeping in contact and booking functions for me to speak at, really helps. Talking about it with other men and making them aware. It keeps me positive.

What was the scariest moment?
When I was told I had breast cancer. I thought the doctor was reading the wrong chart. He said I fell into the 1% of men who get it.

What was the funniest moment?
When I was feeling down about all my scars one of my co-workers said, "Just tattoo nipples on your chest, nobody will notice."

Vanessa:

When were you diagnosed?
May 2007

Are you cancer-free? If so, for how long?
Yes! 6 Years!

How have your family and friends helped you?
My husband was amazing. He took over being Mom and provider so I could heal myself and recover much faster. My father was my #1 supporter, we understood each other.

What tips do you have to help other breast cancer survivors stay positive?
Reach out for support and don't let pride get in the way. I wanted to be able to do what I had been doing every day before I was diagnosed, and I just couldn't, and that really frustrated me. Don’t let yourself feel like a failure because you can't do something — put your pride aside and let people do what they want to do to help.

What has someone done to make you feel better?
My babysitter really helped out a lot. She would help cook, bring my family meals and would watch the kids and get them ready for bed. It was the little things that really helped me out and allowed me to get better.

What was the scariest moment?
When I was about to be wheeled into surgery. Reality had set in. I was diagnosed at stage 0 in May and when I was in surgery they saw that it had spread to my lymph nodes and that I was actually stage 2 and needed chemotherapy.

What was the funniest moment?
My father and I being bald together. It was right around the time "I Am Legend" came out, so we called ourselves that and came up with other silly nicknames for each other, like Light Bulb.

How has breast cancer made you stronger?
Realizing that breasts do not define me as a woman. There is so much more to life. It made me appreciate my family more and to not take anything for granted. I'm closer with my father — we share a very special bond: we both beat breast cancer and are survivors.

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Comments

Bernadette Martinho-Brewer
275 days ago

I enjoyed reading the posts from breast cancer survivors. On August 8th, 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In December of 2011, I had a clean mammogram, so this news was quite shocking & overwhelming. I actually felt the lump in my breast & called my doctor's office about it.

My tumor was lobular - invasive & somewhat aggressive, so two weeks after my diagnosis I was in the hospital having my port-a-cath implanted under my skin to prepare me for chemotherapy. The doctor's agreed that chemotherapy was the way to treat it first to keep it from spreading. So I began my chemotherapy on 8/23/12!! I completed my first four cycles of chemo & I did fine, I was still teaching (only taking chemo days off) and working out as much as possible in the gym. In Oct, I became seriously ill after my treatment and was admitted into the hospital; I had c-diff colitis. I was there for twelve long days, but I was finally released. Of course, I had to take off some time from work as recovered, but I was able to return after Thanksgiving. I was unable to return to chemo until the beginning of January 2013. I had my last chemo treatment on March 8th 2013!!

In May 2013, I had the tumor removed & the lymph nodes that were infected with cancer. Though the scans before the surgery showed that the tumor had decreased to 2 cm, when the surgeon operated on me, she had to remove over 5 cm. She also removed 14 lymph nodes, 11 were infected with cancer. So my UCLA cancer board decided the best option next for me would be a mastectomy; I choose to do a double mastectomy since research shows that my type of tumor had a high chance of re-occurring in the other breast

I had my double mastectomy in July 2013, so I was unable to be at work greeting my students for the new school year. I did return to teaching a couple of weeks after the school year began & prepared for radiation. I started my radiation on Sept. 3rd 2013, one year & 3 weeks after my original diagnosis. Radiation was every day, Monday through Friday, for 6 weeks; it was more exhausting & painful than I anticipated. But thank God, I was able to continue working & I just finished radiation on Oct 10th!!!

I am so thankful to all my support from family, friends, & students! I know God has held me up through this entire trial & I've grown stronger in my faith. My daughter, now 9 years old, has been amazing through this whole illness also. I'm so proud of her. Finally, I have been able to support others who have been diagnosed with this illness. Recently, God has brought students into my life that have had their mom diagnosed with breast cancer & I have been able to be a support to them on campus.

I appreciate that Ellen is supporting Breast Cancer awareness month & sharing survivor's stories on the website!
Many Blessings
Bernadette Martinho-Brewer

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Peggy Miller
282 days ago

So proud that soon the world will be PINK and BLUE. Men then will at least know that they toooo can get this horrible disease! We will be doing a TOPOFF NYC on Nov 3 please come join us next LAX at the ELLEN SHOW Help Us Build AWARENESS 1 Boob at a TIME!

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