‘Don’t be afraid to get tested; that’s the easiest part. Be afraid not to go! It could save your life.’
Pamela Giglio, Huntington Station
“I was the youngest of three sisters, so I figured I’d be the lucky one. My sister Melisande was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Then my other sister, Aurelia, was in 2011. In Melisande’s case, it was detected and treated early. Unfortunately, Aurelia didn’t win her battle.
“I was vigilant about going regularly for a mammography in conjunction with a sonogram. I was shocked when, in 2018 at age 64, I was diagnosed. I had no symptoms. It was devastating. Going into it, all three of us were post-menopausal, healthy people. I had tested negative for the BRCA gene.
“My sisters had ductal carcinoma in situ; I had invasive lobular carcinoma. I felt an amalgam of emotions, including fear and anger. I had done everything right! I realized my level of determination.
“My philosophy became to put one foot forward until I got to the end of the journey. You have to be strong and can’t always think about it. I had a lumpectomy and went for radiation every day for three weeks, first thing in the morning, and then I’d immediately go to work. I found the normalcy of the routine therapeutic.
“After my last treatment, they walked me out to the waiting room, and I hit a big gong. It was a salient moment. I started to cry. It wasn’t just out of happiness; I felt badly for the people in the waiting room who had a lot longer to go and who were probably a lot worse off. It was a poignant day that I’ll always remember. I was very blessed because I trusted my team of doctors, which was crucial.
“I was also fortunate to have my family, whose love was a testament to how special they are. I think about how, at 61, Aury realized she wasn’t feeling well and was brought to the emergency room. The cancer was so advanced that in less than a year she was gone.
“Mel was 56 and had a double mastectomy with TRAM flap reconstruction. [TRAM stands for transverse rectus abdominus muscle.] She’s a 20-year survivor. I’m five years out from my own experience and only need to take medication for two more years. Three sisters, same family, very different timelines. I can’t stress enough the importance of early intervention and early screening. Don’t be afraid to go; that’s the easiest part. Be afraid not to go! It could save your life.”
Interviewed by Iris Wiener