Mary Ann Castro



My Story

Mammograms work because that’s how they found mine. I’m so glad it was caught early. I was diagnosed a year ago, in Oct. 2020 with Stage 1A – Invasive Ductal Carcinoma at age 59. Because of Covid, unfortunately my husband wasn’t allowed in the Doctors office. So he listened thru the phone while the Doctor told me what kind of cancer I had. I also had ALH which means it can come back. My Grandmother and Aunt had breast cancer, had one breast removed then it came back. So double mastectomy was unexpectedly recommended. Sure wish he was there with me to hold my hand. Had the surgery in mid-November. They tested 5 lymph nodes and one was slightly open with the cancer starting to spread.

Started chemo mid-December. My job was “essential” so I kept going into the office. My boss kept me isolated from the 5 other people in the office. I’d be off 2 days a week during chemo, working some from home the day after chemo. I had 4 strong chemos, then 12 lighter chemos. I’d get frustrated when my white blood cell count was too low and had to skip a week, that would make me cry. Happened 3 times so they gave me booster shots so I could complete them, finished in mid-June. By the way, I LOVED my Oncologist. She took her time to listen and really cared.

Had to wait a month to start Radiation. I didn’t like that my treatment completion kept taking longer. I had 33 daily radiation treatments that ended mid-August. I’d seen pictures of ugly red sunburned skin and I’d hear others say they were peeling but my skin looked fine. Then that last week, my skin started changing, getting darker. After I finished the radiation, every day or so, my skin kept getting worse – peeling and more and more 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. Just have a dark tan under my arm that may slowly go away or may not.

Since I completed my treatments, I’m cancer free and turned 60, I colored my spiky hair pink!

Luckily I have had a good support team. My husband was always helping me. My daughter took me to some of the many appts and was also on the phone listening to treatment plans. My close girl relatives, we were always group texting. They learned a lot thru me. I have one younger 2nd cousin who lives out of state that was at the end of completing her treatments. We texted almost every day. Coworkers helped out. I was given items to help thru chemo, meals, plants. My boss didn’t let me take any vacation or sick time for any of my days out. And the volunteer from BCRC would check up on me often. Thankful for them all.

I was given a book of what to expect during Chemo that was helpful, and one thing it said is people will tell you “Stay strong” “Be strong” “You got this” “You can do this” ~ and that’s okay. Just know it’s also OKAY to NOT feel strong. It’s true, I had a few bad days. But overall, I was strong. People couldn’t believe how positive and well I was thru all of this. I tried to exercise whenever I could. I was disappointed to have gained 15 lbs. Glad I got my energy back to exercise more and do yard work.

Because of Covid, I couldn’t go anywhere, I had to be careful not to catch it. But also everyone else couldn’t go anywhere, so I didn’t feel too bad being stuck at home when not at work. I enjoyed coloring a lot of adult coloring books, it’s a stress reliever. After getting 2nd vaccination, we started going out to restaurants again. I also got my 3rd vaccination as soon as it was offered.
I never had a diary, but I read it’s a good thing to do during cancer. I started my diary after surgery. Went back to the date I was called to do a Biopsy. This has been helpful, writing of how I’m feeling. I added pics too. I recommend doing one. Sometimes I forget about something that happened or when it happened, it’s nice to look back. I’m going to continue the daily diary until my full year from diagnosis comes up. Then maybe I’ll only write after Dr appts.

My company is sponsoring Susan Komen and we put big a team together to do the walk in October. I’m looking forward to it!