The Miami Herald

Robin Sarantos

So Much for Cancer!

By Robin L. Sarantos

Figured it wasn’t going to be great news when I was recalled on the initial mammogram results in June 2007. Goodness, at 60 and near perfect heath—something had to give, be it cancer, diabetes, heart, Alzheimer’s or maybe just “old age.” It doesn’t bother me getting older, it just occasionally gets in the way of my highly active life!

Got the results after the second round of tests. Seems it happened pretty fast—at least on the surface. I got my mammograms religiously every year, like clockwork. I figured the clock needed new batteries so off I went to have the biopsies. I had that inner little person telling me it would be diagnosed as breast cancer.

I selected and visited Baptist oncologist Grace Wang before the operation so she’d have baseline information on my body. Her calming attitude, her beside manner, phenomenal knowledge and sincere concern were well appreciated. The surgeon, Juan Carlos Veradeja, came highly recommended and laid out my options. He was so patient with all our questions and concerns. He even diagramed everything so we could visualize what would happen.

Family and friends provided a very positive and powerful influence. We opted for bilateral mastectomies. Good thing because the final pathology report found four cancers in the right breast when initially we thought there were just two. I always seem to do things in a big way. Did I want reconstruction? Nope. Not at 60. I am a busy person and generally look at the humorous side of events. Don’t put me under longer than is absolutely necessary. I have too much to do. I still wanted to climb Machu Picchu and figured I’d be better off if I were lighter on top. Grandma and Mama became “D+” cups as they aged. Heck, Grandma had her breasts reduced when she was 80 years old because they were so pendulous and causing canyon-like grooves in the shoulder bones. She lived to be 98. I was just wondering how long it would be before my 120-pound frame sported huge breasts! Three years of breast-feeding in my thirties hadn’t affected them but oh my goodness, menopause sure did! The “B” cup had progressed to a “C.” It was just a matter of time.

I e-mailed Dr. Veradeja the week after surgery telling him, “You are the Michelangelo of breast surgery, a true sculptor. A master with the knife and you even managed a little A-size cup with a smidgen of cleavage!”

When I was diagnosed, I started looking at life a little differently. Smelling the flowers a bit longer. Glancing at the blue skies on the Peloponnese. Watching the sunsets through the stately columns at the Acropolis. I ponder everything more intensively. Nothing is taken for granted. My husband and I spend time staring up and searching the heavens for that shooting star. Figured every moment had better be lived to the fullest just in case there is a reoccurrence down the road and it gets a little rough.

We feel so lucky that science allowed the cancer to be caught early. It has reinforced my belief that it is my responsibility to reach out to others and give back. I have always done this, but now reaching out seems even more important. If I can make just one more person’s life a bit easier, a little happier, then I feel whatever time I have on this earth will be of value.




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