In January of 2006, my twin sister, Deb Baresic, called to tell me she had had an abnormal mammogram and would need a biopsy. She strongly suggested that I have a mammogram too. I was very concerned for my sister and scared enough that I made my appointment.
A week later, I was told that my mammogram was abnormal, so I scheduled an appointment with a surgeon. We had no family history of breast cancer, but both my sister and I were scared to death! Can you imagine twins going through this at the same time?
Deb had her biopsy and was told she had a pre-cancerous condition, so she chose to have a lumpectomy. My biopsy revealed invasive ductal carcinoma, and there was no possibility of breast-conserving surgery. On February 16, 2006, I underwent a mastectomy of my right breast. Four lymph nodes were removed and all were negative, and only 30 percent of the tumor was invasive.
In the meantime, my sister’s lumpectomy did not result in clear margins. Influenced by my diagnosis, she chose to have a mastectomy with immediate skin-sparing Tram Flap reconstruction in March. I had Tram Flap reconstruction on May 16 (our birthday!). My cancer was stage I and Deb’s was stage 0; fortunately, neither of us required chemotherapy.
Supporting ourselves, and each other
I can’t begin to explain the emotions we experienced while trying to support each other even as we dealt with our own diagnosis. But we had a lot of support from family and friends, and we are now six-month survivors. Deb is coming to Louisville (she lives in Ft. Wayne) to walk with me in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I can’t think of anything else in the world that I would rather do at this time. With her diagnosis, she saved my life, and I will be eternally grateful. We are bonded beyond the bond we already had as twins. Our lives are both richer for this experience and we will continue to survive and thrive.
I would especially like to thank my two incredibly loving sons, Brandon and Adam, for being my cheerleaders and never once leaving me alone with my fears. Adam was serving in the Army in Afghanistan when I was diagnosed, and it was very difficult to have to share such news with him by telephone. Special thanks also to my mom, Flora, who had to experience all this as a parent with not one, but two daughters with breast cancer. She never lost faith and I will always feel her love. So, let’s walk and find a cure!