Amid a six-month battle with breast cancer, friends and family surprised Ileana Cohn, 33, at Lennar Foundation Medical Center in Coral Gables on Wednesday to celebrate her final chemotherapy treatment — with Salty Donuts from her favorite shop and University of Miami mascot Sebastian the Ibis.
Earlier in the day, UM Head Football Coach Mark Richt visited Cohn, a 2006 grad who frequently attends UM sports games with her husband, Andrew.
Ileana and Andrew met at UM “when I was a freshman and he was a sophomore,” she said.
“He actually broke up with me because he said ‘a lot of girls liked him and he couldn’t stay with one person.’ We got back together our junior year and got married and had our first child, David, the following year.” David is now 10; his sister Sofia is 7.
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Last August, Ileana learned she has stage 2a breast cancer, meaning the cancer is growing but still contained in the breast, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Ileana felt a lump in her left breast several months before her diagnosis but put off going to the doctor because of work and family commitments, Andrew said.
“She was covering for her boss at work and couldn’t find the right time to go get the lump checked out,” Andrew said. “When I found out it was breast cancer, I was overwhelmed. It was very difficult to balance my work life and my personal life in the following days. I remember calling my boss once I learned about the diagnosis, and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth telling him that she had cancer.”
Ileana finally went to the doctor that August and was not allowed to leave the hospital until she had a mammogram and a biopsy.
“I had this feeling while at the doctor’s office that something was wrong,” she said. “You go in for a checkup and then they say, ‘Oh, you can’t leave until you get an ultrasound.’ So I took the ultrasound, and then they said, ‘OK, you can’t leave yet because you need a mammogram.’ At this point, I was getting suspicious that something was wrong, but I still had hope that nothing was wrong. Then the doctors told me I needed a biopsy and they would call me with the results in a few days.”
A few days later, Ileana received a call from her obstetrician-gynecologist, who is also a close friend, confirming her diagnosis.
Doctors found two large tumors in her breast, with the biggest measuring 4.7 cm wide. Ileana said she turned around, away from her kids, and quietly sobbed.
Since her diagnosis, she has undergone 16 weekly chemotherapy sessions. She wears a wig when leading Sofia’s Girl Scout troop. Ileana said she wears the wig to not desensitize her children to cancer.
“I don’t want my kids to think that cancer is just a normal disease,” she said. “I wear the wig to prevent my children’s friends from asking why I don’t have hair like their mother does. It prevents them from normalizing a disease that is far from normal.”
Ileana will undergo a double mastectomy on March 8, the next step in her battle with breast cancer.
“When I was diagnosed, it wasn’t only me that got diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I felt that all of my friends were diagnosed, too. Whenever I wasn’t feeling too well and Andrew was busy with the kids, they would pitch in and bring dinner, come over and cheer me up. They were so helpful during my treatment, and I’m glad to call them friends.”
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