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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