A week before her 38th birthday, Sarita Cruz received the news that she had breast cancer, and the first question she asked the doctor was whether she was going to die. Fearing the diagnosis, the financial advisor and psychology student adopted a positive attitude toward treatment, which made it lighter and more enjoyable.
For my last chemotherapy session, I went to the Oncologia D’Or at Assunção Hospital, in São Bernardo, in the ABC area of São Paulo, in a car with a sunroof and dressed as a Wonder Woman. The celebration even deserved a cake with the phrase “Goodbye, my chest, happy new breast.” Next, Sarita shares her journey.
“I do a medical exam every year and am always interested in awareness campaigns. In August 2021, I was lying in bed when I did a self-exam and noticed a lump in my left breast, it looked like a flat mango block I was scared and went to sleep thinking about it.
The next day, I was able to make an appointment with a mammologist for 15 days. The wait generated a little anxiety, but I always tried to control myself in relation to negative thoughts, to confront them and change them so that I wouldn’t suffer early.
On the day of the appointment, I explained to the doctor what was happening, she examined me and ordered some tests. The day the biopsy result was ready, I woke up and thought.
If this were my last day in my life, my last wish would be to be with the people I love and be grateful for. If not, I will commit to continuing to live with the joy and spontaneity I have always experienced. That is, whether the situation is good or bad, I will try to turn the negative thing into a good thing.
I went to the gym, came home to get ready and then went to the office. Upon arrival, the doctor opened the result and said that I had breast cancer – the tumor was 6 cm and was in the initial stage.
My first question was: “Am I going to die?” She told me about the chances of recovery with treatment. The second: Am I bald? She said yes, she broke down in tears, hugged me and comforted me.
I received the news a week before my 38th birthday. I already had a flight scheduled to celebrate the date and kept my commitment. I had as much fun as I could, I was sad when I came back and realized the new reality, but I put it in my head that it was a phase to pass.
All of the knowledge base I gained in the Faculty of Psychology, as well as my therapeutic process with a psychologist, was important for dealing with the situation.
Before starting Phase I, my oncologist warned me that I might have problems with infertility and go into early menopause after cancer treatment. I don’t have children and I don’t have complete conviction about being a mother, but I thought it was best to leave the possibility open and did the egg freezing.
On December 23, 2021, I had the first of 16 chemotherapy sessions. Having a positive attitude towards treatment helped me make the process lighter.
A few simple situations made all the difference, one was getting ready, dressed up and making up for the sessions – I was already sick, I didn’t want to be ugly.
Another custom I established was to prepare and serve a different dish for the entire team, which included everything from the doctors to the cleaning crew. I love cooking, the kitchen has an emotional side to me and that was how I found the reaction and care of these people with me. In addition, he took tickets, flowers, balloons, sang and choreographed.
Continuing the same routine as before the illness, I have reduced the pace of work. I experienced quite a bit of side effects, went to college and the gym every day – even on chemotherapy days – and felt more energetic and ready to do the weightlifting.
Another strategy was to resume activities that I loved to do when I was young. Camping, hiking, abseiling, skydiving and paragliding were some of the things I did during the treatment that made me reconnect with myself and with nature.
I had hard times too, it was not easy to look at myself in the mirror and not recognize myself, I cried several times, but I understood that I could admire myself for being bald, without eyebrows and without eyelashes. I took a picture to remember the strong, feminine, sensual woman, who has a will to live and who has never given up on being happy.
I was an inspiration myself, but the support and motivation of my family, friends and medical staff was also key to me strengthening myself.
On May 26, 2022, I went to my last session dressed as Wonder Woman, in a sunroof with three colored “Q16” balloons, Chemo No. 16. And the party was worth a cake with the phrase Goodbye old dream, happy new nipple and personal cookies. I was happy to celebrate the completion of the first stage.
The second is on July 12. The surgical indication for me was the removal of a quarter of the left breast, but for prevention, I opted for a radical mastectomy and underwent immediate reconstruction.
I am recovering well and waiting to start the third stage, the radiotherapy sessions. There is a phrase that I really like the wisdom of water that goes like this: “Water never argues with its obstacles, but goes around them.”
I faced my cancer-fighting journey with joy and high spirits, and I didn’t lose my core. I believe there is nothing we have too little to share with others, and I share my experience and gratitude for life.”
The importance of positivity in treatment
Having a positive attitude can help cure any disease. Those patients who understand what will be done and believe in the success of the operation tend to experience fewer side effects and comply with all steps in the indicated periods.
Several studies have indicated that having an optimistic attitude helps treat cancer and is associated with a lower incidence of depression. Mood can affect the body and the immune system in recovering from illness.
In this sense, two new specialties were created to support these patients: oncology psychology and oncological psychiatry. In the case of breast cancer, for example, in addition to the disease itself, the woman still needs to deal with the change of the body, which is a separate chapter and can affect the perception of her femininity and the relationship with her image and negatively affect the psychological part. Therefore, early intervention measures are essential.
Depression can also affect treatment because it is associated with a lack of pleasure in performing usual activities. It brings feelings of hopelessness, sadness, irritability, guilt, and apathy and can impair sleep. Mental illness is also associated with reduced immunity and generally contributes to pessimism about the whole process.
Patient involvement is very important, as they need to adhere to treatment and follow guidelines, such as proper diet, physical activity, and proper use of prescribed medications. In a depressed person, the mood to pursue this journey is weak, and the effort he has to put in is much greater.
Fear and a negative attitude can be crippling. As a result, some people may delay going to the doctor for fear of confirming the diagnosis, and may undergo inappropriate and incomplete treatment. There are still those who prefer to believe that they do not have the disease and believe that the problem will go away.
Having a support network of family and friends, as well as the support of a multidisciplinary team, consisting of physicians, psychologists, nutritionists and nurses, among other professionals, directly affects the well-being of cancer patients and, in turn, increases their commitment. .
It is worth noting that the role of the oncologist in this process goes beyond treating the cancer itself. Participates in the transformation of the patient and helps him in his transformation and change his habits and way of facing life.
Source: Vanessa Petrian oncologist at Assunção Hospital, Rede D’Or São Luiz and Oncologia D’Or Catequese.
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