Elizabeth Cipolla


Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation

I am 33 years old, a new mom and a full-time school guidance counselor. When I found my lump, my initial reaction was that I didn’t have time for all the doctor’s appointments that would be necessary.

It was just before Christmas when I visited my OB/GYN. She reassured me that, since I had only recently stopped breastfeeding, it was probably a clogged duct and nothing to worry about. I went for a mammogram and sonogram and I could tell that the technician saw something suspicious. I was advised to have a biopsy the following day and to consult a surgeon.

I don’t know how I made it home that night, but when my small daughter and my wonderful husband greeted me, I began to lose it. All I could think of was my mom’s sister who had died from breast cancer at the age of 32, leaving behind three small children.

The biopsy
The next morning I had a sick feeling in my stomach as I went in for the biopsy. But, when I saw the surgeon the next day for the results, he told me I was fine; the biopsy was negative. I told him that I still wanted it removed, but he couldn’t get me in until possibly June. Later, my OB/GYN called and told me she felt I should go ahead and have the lump removed as a precaution, but she suggested I get another opinion if I decided against surgery. I called the surgeon back and relayed what my OB/GYN had said, adding that I was hoping to get pregnant within the next few months. He scheduled me for surgery during the second week of January.

Somehow, my husband and I got through Christmas and really didn’t think much more about the surgery. I went in and had the awful experience of having a “thread” put into my breast with no painkillers. All the while, the doctors and nurses questioned my decision to have a benign tumor removed.

Two weeks later, on a snowy Wednesday in January, I was making potato soup as my baby daughter played on the floor next to me. My OB/GYN called with the results from my surgery, and her words changed my world. My hopes and dreams of having many children, watching my daughter graduate, seeing her walk down the aisle at her wedding and reaching retirement age with my husband suddenly seemed like they might never happen. My poor husband came home from work that day to find me slumped on the kitchen floor crying. He assured me that we would fight this and deal with whatever was thrown our way. The most difficult thing was telling my mom. I knew that her thoughts would be about my Aunt Nancy.

Starting treatment
The next few days included tests, more surgery and the discussion of chemotherapy and radiation. My prognosis was good with the additional treatment. Chemo would be tough, but as my oncologist put it, “just a bump in the road.” I started chemo in February and will be done in June. It hasn’t been fun, but I am getting through it. The two worst parts were going to the infusion center and seeing all the really sick people, and losing my beautiful hair.

However, each day I feel blessed. My family, friends and even strangers have reached out to help in any way they can. Other days I don’t understand why bad things happen to us. Just two years before this, my daughter was born prematurely and I had to visit her in the hospital for two months instead of bringing her home with us. So many times, I asked myself why this black cloud was over me. I’ll never forget when I asked my husband, “Why us?” and he replied, “Why not us?”

His words reminded me of how fortunate I should feel every day. There is a guardian angel out there protecting us and making me better and stronger, and I have a new outlook on life.