Margaret's "Story of Hope"

Hi, I'm Margaret Caratozzolo, Mary's sister and I am a survivor of breast cancer.

I have always been a believer that things happen for a reason and when Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago, I couldn't understand why?  As time went by, it became more clear to me.  Let me explain.

Mary is BRACA1 positive.  The braca gene is a gene for breast and ovarian cancer.  If you have the gene, your chances are so much greater to get either disease over someone without the gene.  Mary wanted us all to have the test to see if we had this gene.  I am a worrier and thought I would worry the rest of my life about getting cancer if I had the test, so I decided not to at that time.

After having my 3rd and last child almost 4 years ago, my gynecologist told me to have the BRACA test.  He told me with 3 children he didn't want to take any chances and wanted to know if I was a carrier.  I had the test. 

Long story short, I was positive for the BRACA1 gene and was devastated.  I knew I had surgeries ahead of me in order to prevent myself from getting cancer.  I knew I would have my ovaries out and a double mastectomy as an elective and preventative way to reassure that I would someday dance with my children at their weddings.  I would do whatever it took to be here for my family.

In October of 2009, I had my ovaries and uterus removed.  I went into full blown menopause at 39 years old.  Not fun.  Constant hot flashes.  My husband never argued when I wanted to have the air conditioner on in the winter.  I continued to go for mammograms and MRI's every 6 months until I would have my mastectomy, which I had planned for October of 2011.  I prepared myself mentally for that day.

My plans quickly changed when I went for a routine MRI in April of this year.  A small suspicious growth was seen on my MRI and a biopsy was needed.  I cried and panicked.  Praying that is was nothing.

On May 19, I received a phone call from my doctor telling me that it was a small cancerous tumor.  I held myself together until I got off the phone.  I hugged my husband Stephen and sobbed on his shoulder.  All I could think was if it had gotten to my lymph nodes.  I remembered what Mary had gone through and hoped that I would not have to go through the same thing.  My parents and Mary came by later that day.  Just looking at them made me cry and think about what was ahead of me.  My oldest son Stephen even cried when he heard the word CANCER.  I reassured him that I would be alright.

June 6th was my double mastectomy.  After my surgery, I remember hearing my husband's voice saying, "Margs, it's not in the lymph nodes.  Everything looks good."  I felt relieved.

I remember being blow away when the doctors at Sloan told me I needed chemo, a series of 8 treatments that would make me nauseous, achy and lose my thick head of hair.  The chemo would kill off anything microscopic that might have been floating around. All I could think of at the time was losing my hair.  When it started coming out in clumps, I told my husband to shave it.

"Let's give you a mohawk!" he said to try to make me laugh.  I actually did laugh.  Funny thing is that through this horrible experience, my husband Stephen always made me laugh or smile, no matter how difficult a day I was having.  As far as my hair, he would always tell me how beautiful I looked and that he was always going to be by my side.  He told me he married me for what was on the inside, not the outside.  When my kids saw me bald for the first time, they said that I was still PRETTY.  They got used to my bald head right away.

Through this whole ordeal, I was blessed to have had so much support.  With my loving husband, dedicated parents, and wonderful family and friends, I made it through the past 6 months.  They supported me, cooked for me, was there when I needed a shoulder to cry on, watched my children for me, set up play dates, took my kids on outings and the list goes on and on.........

I want to thank all of them for being there for me, all the well wishes, cards, gifts, and most of all..........prayers!  I am proud to say that 2 days ago I finished my last treatment.  I have truly realized, every step of the way, that things could have been so much worse.  My tumor was only 1 centimeter.  It was not in the lymph nodes.  I could have had more than 8 treatments of chemo.  If I didn't have my MRI when I did, I could have been in much later stages of breast cancer.  I was lucky.

If my sister Mary was never tested for the BRACA gene, I would not have been tested for it at 38 years old.  I, in turn, would not have had the MRI that found my cancer.  It opened my eyes to this horrible disease and made me more proactive.  That is why I feel things happen for a reason and maybe my sister Mary, having gone through cancer herself, spared me from having it much worse.

I recently saw this beautiful saying in a church bulletin that I would like to share with you.

What Cancer Cannot Do:

Cancer is so limited...........
Cancer cannot cripple love,
Cancer cannot shatter hope,
Cancer cannot corrode faith,
Cancer cannot destroy peace,
Cancer cannot kill friendship,
Cancer cannot suppress memories,
Cancer cannot silence courage,
Cancer cannot steal eternal life,
Cancer cannot conquer the Spirit.

Last, and most importantly, I want to thank God.  Without him, I would not have had the strength and courage to get through this.  He is the reason I'm here today.

Story by: Margaret C.

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