Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2012 : Page 4

S P E CIAL AD VER TIS IN G S E CTI O N Grandmother’s Disease » continued from page 98 1 in 6 much of it because my mammogram was negative.” She and her husband have a nice home, and their life was good. She loved her job as a pre-school teacher, and enjoyed hiking and going out with friends. Breast cancer was not something she really thought about, and like so many peo-ple, she thought she was too young to be diag-nosed with the disease. At the end of 2008, Zito went to the doctor for a routine visit, and her physician noticed she had not had her annual MRI. She scheduled Zito for the test, which revealed something suspicious. A biopsy was done, and in early January 2009, her doctor revealed the news. “I felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me,” Zito says. It was not the last time she felt like that. She experienced that feeling after she woke up from surgery to ind that she had a drain under her arm. Her surgeon had hoped that she could remove the tumor and perform a sentinel node biopsy (biopsying the lymph node closest to the tumor), without dissecting several lymph nodes. Sentinel node biopsy is used for staging breast cancer, and she knew that having a complete lymph node dissection meant that the cancer had spread further than her doctor suspected. The rug was pulled out again when she received the news that she would have to endure ifty weeks of chemotherapy followed by more than seven weeks of radiation, instead of surgery and tamoxifen (an estrogen inhibitor) orally. Despite the setbacks, Zito kept a positive outlook, and she looked forward to the day she could return to her job. After longer than a year Rhode Island women develops breast cancer in her lifetime. sabbatical, Zito returned to work at the beginning of the school year. Unfortunately, her immune system was compromised from the cancer treat-ments, and she developed bronchitis three times that year. She loved her job, but felt that she should be doing something more and her mul-tiple bouts of bronchitis pushed her to think about her future and what she really wanted to do. So, she quit her job and went back to college to study human development and family ser-vices. Zito knew that she wanted to work with cancer patients, especially young women. She chose young breast cancer survivor support needs as her senior thesis and requested an in-ternship at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. Unbeknownst to her, the foundation had recognized the need for pro-grams designed speci ically for young breast cancer survivors, and had just begun the process of developing such programs. “It was perfect timing,” says Maria Gemma, the foundation’s executive director. The Foundation adopted Zito’s proposal and hired her as the young survivor program coor-dinator. “Who knows the emotional needs of young breast cancer survivors better?” Gemma says. According to Zito, young survivors don’t want to sit in a circle and talk about their feelings. They want informal support where they can connect with other young women who know what they are going through. “Young survivors recognize they need support, but they want to get in a fun way,” Zito says. The young survivor program will include such things as art therapy and dance therapy, but it will also include classes on nutrition and rebuild-ing physical strength. “People don’t realize the beating you take from cancer,” she says. The foundation’s goal is to eventually extend the young survivor program to include services for spouses/partners and young children. It has been almost four years since Zito’s di-agnosis, and she said she feels stronger and more centered than she did before she was diagnosed. “Cancer gave me focus and clarity,” she says. ✛ For more information on the young survivor programs, please call 401 861 4376. Artist: Taylor Fletcher, age 16, Greene School, West Greenwich Left to right, the family of Patrick Curry, Destiny Curry, Michelle Curry and Zachary Gagnon at the 2011 Celebrate Pink, presented by Warwick Mall. 100 RHODE ISLAND MONTHLY l OCTOBER 2012 Photo courtesy Judi Sherwood, Judith’s Point Photography

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