By Brenda Coronado
Hello! My name is Brenda Coronado. Fun facts: I am originally from Monterrey, Mexico, and I moved to the United States in 2008. I have been happily married for ten years and I am an industrial engineer, with Certified Production Inventory Management (CPIM) certification. I love supply chain, so I decided to get certified in my passion!
I’ve received annual mammograms since 2014, when I found a cyst that proved to be benign at age 35. In February 2022, I scheduled and went to get my annual checkup. Of course they found something. My care team sent me to get an ultrasound, and after that they immediately scheduled a biopsy.
I work full time, so April 7, 2022 was a regular business day for me. When I got the call around 3:00 p.m. from the clinic that did the biopsy, the nurse said, “Hi Ms. Coronado, we have your results. You have cancer.” I swear I started shaking and I froze; I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She tried to help me calm down and gave me the names of two breast cancer surgeons (What?? I never knew there was even such a thing).
Imagine you are at work, and you have calls scheduled later that afternoon. I managed to get on that call and make it home. I called my husband, who was away on business in San Francisco. As a matter of fact, I called him before getting in the car and he immediately scheduled his flight back.
I finally got an appointment with the breast surgeon for April 21. I remember this was three weeks out from my diagnosis, and I was in shock. First, why do they give you cancer results by phone on a weekday? Why would they even do that?? Of course I was scared of the unknown. What stage? What does this mean? Was I going to die?
Finally, the day to meet the surgical oncologist came. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). She explained everything to me and my husband. She was very clear and answered all of our questions. She ordered some more tests. First was an MRI, which showed some extra spots, so I had to have three more biopsies. A week later, she called me to explain my results and the options available to me. The other breast had some suspicious spots that were biopsied. I opted for a double mastectomy as I was afraid that something was going to develop on the other breast.
June 13 was my surgery date, less than two weeks after I was called in to the surgeon’s office for the follow up. Based on the pathology report from the double mastectomy, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B ILC. And because one lymph node was positive for cancer cells, chemotherapy was the next step.
After meeting with my medical oncologist in early July, she decided that I needed more tests before talking about my treatment plan. The next steps were a CAT scan and a bone scan. My results finally came. It was confirmed as Stage 2B, with no spread, so it was on to chemo. I had my port inserted in August and started eight rounds of Adriamycin/Cytoxan (AC) to Taxol (T) chemo. I have to say, the AC had the most difficult side effects—I was feeling tired all the time, nauseous, and very sleepy. I am still suffering the side effects of Taxol (neuropathy). I finished chemo the day before Thanksgiving.
For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to need radiation—so it was a shock when my medical oncologist told me that the next step was 35 rounds of radiation. I thought, well, at least I can rest over the holidays to recover from treatment, right?
I started radiation on January 4, 2023. By week 4 my skin was severely burned. I had to stop treatment for 10 days. This was by far the hardest part of my treatment. But anyway, that is what we do to stay alive, right? I was very scared and tired. I hated the daily drive to treatment and how it cut off my day. When I returned for radiation10 days later, I was supposed to have 11 more sessions, but the radiation oncologist gave me some news that made me cry. Because my surgery margins were clear, she told me we could reduce the remaining sessions from 11 to four. OMG!!! I called my husband and mom even before starting the drive home, crying happy tears!!!
I am no longer in active treatment. Now, in survivorship, I am taking an oral aromatase inhibitor called anastrozole. I also met with my plastic surgeon, and we scheduled my reconstruction surgery for early fall! My plastic surgeon mentioned that implants would be risky because of the radiation, so I opted for DIEP flap reconstruction.
I have been a member of the SBC community since May 2022, when I started attending the Thursday Night Thrivers program. When I connected with SBC, it really helped me to calm down, to listen and be part of the community. It saddened me that I was not able to find any breast cancer support in Spanish, my native language.
In June 2022, right after the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference, SBC co-founders William and Laura invited me to collaborate as the new Director of Community Engagement and co-founder of “Después de un Diagnóstico,” SBC’s new addition of programs offered in Spanish, where we provide educational information and support for the Hispanic community. This was perfect to me, because as a Hispanic I saw the need for support while we are on this trip. By the way, I do not like the word “journey,” because in my mind a journey is something that you are enjoying, and a cancer diagnosis is not that.
The Hispanic team helps with a variety of tasks at SBC. Together with my colleague Lourdes D. Heras, I co-host a new podcast: “Después de un Diagnóstico,” craft a newsletter, and host our Tuesday support group, which meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month. We also offer an art therapy program every first Tuesday of the month. We collaborate in planning programs, communicating with members, and participating in events and conferences.
We are here for all new patients and caregivers. Do not hesitate to contact me or any of the SBC team members. We do this from our hearts. This is our passion, and we are here for you.
Thank you for sharing your story, Brenda. SBC loves you!
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