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National Spotlight

Financial Resources —Did you know that there are many financial resources that can help people living with breast cancer? Find out more

Tina's Story

Tina Beligotti's Survivor Story

 

I decided I was going to win.

 

When I noticed the dimple on my breast, I had no idea it could be cancer.  But I was wrong.  Today I am a five-year survivor.  That’s the happy ending.  But the journey between there and here was a challenge that changed my life.  I am a survivor and this is my story. 

 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.  I noticed a dimple on my right breast which, my doctor told me, indicated a 98% chance of cancer.  My mammogram never showed the lump, but the ultrasound did.  After a needle biopsy, it was confirmed. I felt scared-to-death and numb.  I have eight sisters and no history of breast cancer. Out of all of them, I was the only one who didn’t smoke.  It made no sense. But cancer doesn’t make sense, no matter how hard you try to understand it.

 

After my diagnosis I was faced with two treatment options:  lumpectomy or mastectomy, and then chemo and/or radiation.  I chose the lumpectomy. Looking back, I wish I had chosen the mastectomy.  My doctor really pushed for a lumpectomy, then chemo and radiation.  Even though I had a 97% cure rate, all I could think about was that I’d be one of the 3%.  So I listened to the doctor and my fears, rather than getting a second opinion and doing more research. 

 

When I made the decision to have a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemo then 35 days of radiation, I expected a scar and that I would be sick during treatment. But I never knew how deformed my breast would be by the end. That’s the part the doctor never told me.  Today I have a C cup on the left side and an A cup on the right.  If I had had a mastectomy, my insurance would have paid for reconstruction, but they will not pay to repair a deformed breast.

 

As a survivor, though, I look back on the positives and, yes, there really were some.  One thing that kept me up nights was how I would show my little granddaughter that I had lost my hair.  So I bought a wig.  But rather than reacting negatively, she immediately wanted to try it on!  Anytime I wore a turban, she just had to have one.  Here I had been scared to death to tell her about my hair, and it turned out that she thought it was really cool.  My granddaughter taught me to see the effects of my treatment in a whole new way.

 

And that’s one of the lessons you learn as a survivor. You never quite know how you or others will respond to the disease.  My sisters backed away from me.  I think they were scared to death. But I also met wonderful new friends along the way.  And finding support was the key for me.  That and my faith got me through.  Both enabled me to fight, fight, fight. And from the beginning, I decided I was going to win.