Juliana Carvalho



Rediscovering who I am, a breast cancer survivor

I remember a distinct gut feeling in February 2021 that told me do a breast self-exam. I don’t know what prompted that feeling, but when I did the exam, I felt a lump in my left breast.

At the time, I was living in the United States away from my family in Brazil. I was living alone with my son, Anthony, who was almost 5 months old at the time. Due to the pandemic, I had no family with me when my son was born. I was navigating life on my own.

After what felt like an infinite series of exams, I got my diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer. I received the news through the hospital app on my phone, alone at home. The only thought that crossed my mind was I had to have this “thing” out of my body as soon as possible. I needed to see my son grow up.

Treatment began, including chemotherapy and surgery.

I remember my doctors telling me that my chances of recovery were good. Despite my mother not being with me for the birth of my son, I was able to bring her to the United States at the time of my treatment. When she arrived, I had already had my first chemo treatment and had shaved my head. Despite that, I was so happy to have her with me during treatment and for my first Mother’s Day in May 2021.
In July 2021, after five rounds of chemotherapy, I walked into my doctor’s office for a follow-up. My doctor informed me that my tumor had shrunk and was no longer visible on an ultrasound. I remember celebrating this victory and feeling so thankful that my body had responded to the treatment.

Besides losing my hair, I survived!

Though the tumor shrunk, I decided to go through with a bilateral mastectomy to reduce my risk of reoccurrence to 2%. I was very skinny and weak right before the surgery and was really scared of not coming back home to my son. In this moment, my faith came on so strong. I prayed to God to bring me back from the surgery.

My surgery was in August 2021, and after the surgery, I was considered cancer-free.
My journey with breast cancer gave me so much wisdom and I went deep on rediscovering who I was after it all. I am committed to share the lessons I have learned:

Trust your intuition, know your body: I was not regular in doing self-exams, but for some reason, that day I did. I discovered my lump and was treated in the early stages, saving my life.

Have at least one good friend, family member or therapist who you can call anytime, day or night: I was blessed with a handful of great and loving people around me throughout my journey.

Strengthen your faith/beliefs: Due to COVID-19, there were moments that I was not able to have anybody with me during chemotherapy or post-surgery. I’m very strong in my faith and never felt alone. I had some complications right after surgery and needed to return to the operating room. I remember a nurse came to me and asked if I was afraid or if I needed any medication to calm down. I was scared, but I was filled with peace because I knew I was not alone. I knew that God wanted me to be strong. No matter what your beliefs are, have something to help your soul to be strong.

Take care of your body: We never know how much we’ll need our body. Before all of this happened to me, I had healthy habits. When cancer happened to me, I was angry and began to wonder why this had happened to me since I am so healthy. Lately, I realized that my strong body that I built throughout the years helped me recover from my battle.

Fear of recurrence exists: It is always here, but I remind myself that I’ve been on top of every appointment, I don’t miss checkups and I talk to my doctor when I notice any changes.

Find ways to help others: A smile, a hug, a word, a meal, a cup of coffee. It always comes back to you somehow.

Celebrate every victory, tiny or huge!

Smile and be grateful: Life is great!