Mary Ann Castro was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2020. This is her story in her own words.
Mammograms work because that’s how my doctor found out I had breast cancer. I’m so glad it was caught early. I was diagnosed a year ago, with stage 1A invasive ductal carcinoma. I really loved my oncologist—she took the time to listen to me and really cared for me.
Learning my diagnosis was lonely—because of COVID-19, my husband wasn’t allowed at the doctor’s office with me, so he listened through the phone while the doctor told me what kind of breast cancer I had. My grandmother and aunt had also had breast cancer, and they each had a breast removed. When my doctor recommended a double mastectomy, it was unexpected. Looking back at that moment, I wish my husband could have been there to hold my hand.
I had my surgery in November and began chemotherapy in December. Because my job is considered essential, I had to keep going to the office, though my boss kept me isolated from the other five people who were there. I’d have two days a week off work for chemotherapy and sometimes would work from home the day after chemo. I’d get frustrated when my white blood cell count was too low and I’d have to miss a week of treatment. That would make me cry.
I had to wait a month to start radiation therapy. I didn’t like that my treatment completion kept taking longer than expected. I had 33 daily radiation treatments that ended in mid-August. I’d seen pictures of ugly, red sunburned skin and I’d hear others say their skin was peeling, but my skin looked fine. Then that last week, my skin started changing, getting darker. After I finished radiation, every day or so, my skin kept getting worse. It was peeling and I developed red patches that hurt, so that made me cry because I thought I was done, but I wasn’t. But a month later, my skin healed. Now I just have a dark tan color under my arm that may slowly go away or may not.
I’m lucky to have had a good support team. My husband was a huge help and my daughter took me to appointments and listened to the doctor over the phone. I had a group text with my close girl relatives. One of my cousins who lives out of state was at the end of completing her treatment and we texted almost every day. My coworkers and my boss were there for me, and the volunteers from the Breast Cancer Resource Center would check up on me often. I’m thankful for them all.
Since I completed my treatments, I have continued to remain cancer-free. And recently, I turned 60 and to celebrate, I colored my spiky hair pink. I learned that it’s okay to not feel strong, and I had some bad days, but overall, I stayed strong.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.