Dimples – Not the Good Kind
Normally, you hear of breast cancer being detected as a lump. In Marisa Fogal’s case, it started as a dimple. She complained to her husband that she was seeing cellulite on her breast. Then, that breast started shrinking. In three months, she lost an entire cup size.
A mammogram confirmed the worst – Stage 2 breast cancer. “I had a weird feeling a few years earlier that this might happen… odd intuition,” she remembers. Still, she was devastated. “I almost passed out.” It was 2011 and Marisa was only 42 at the time. Her life was busy, especially with three teenagers.
Her diagnosis was a double whammy – both ductal and lobular cancer. Fortunately, it had not yet affected her lymph nodes.
Marisa says, “Because of my young age, they did very aggressive therapy.” At the time, it seemed too aggressive for her. “I wasn’t going to do chemo. It wasn’t in my lymph nodes and I wanted to go with a more holistic approach. My family was very upset and did not want me to go that way. I regret that decision. I would have liked to see if the other therapy could have worked first.”
Marisa still feels the effects of the chemo with some neuropathy, psoriasis, dental issues, and more. “Chemo absolutely ages you,” she says.
She opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy and endured four rounds of chemo, followed by reconstructive surgery and a full hysterectomy.
A Surprising Finding
Marisa’s grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 75, and she volunteered for a research project to determine if she had inherited the disease from her. It turns out she actually may have become susceptible because of her father’s prostate cancer. More testing is in the works.
Amazing Family and Friends
Marisa credits her support network for getting her through the ordeal. She has a wonderful family and an amazing group of friends. “They all rallied around me,” she says. She and her friends threw a hat party. Everyone brought hats or scarves. She got a Mohawk at the party and dyed it pink. “I tried to make the chemo a lighter experience for the whole family,” she emphasizes.
“I had not known another person who had breast cancer, and next thing I know everyone is getting it.” Her friends kept asking if she could counsel others on what to expect. “I wish I had had that,” she adds, “someone who went through it to talk to.”
Getting Support and Giving Back
Marisa relied on information she found at http://breastcancer.org to get her through. “They have amazing information.” Then she found Albie Aware. “Just by having the support of women in my situation and doing the Kings Breast Cancer Awareness Game was special. I want to do it again. I was looking for a charity that I could support and Albie Aware is truly about helping women and doing something for the greater good. I wanted to give back.”
Marisa is also involved with an organization founded by Ryan Teixeira and now operated by his parents Steve and Holly Teixeira called 17 Strong. Its mission is to provide victory trips for cancer survivors between the ages of 18 and 40. Ryan, a young man who aged out of a Make-A-Wish trip, later passed away from a secondary cancer caused by chemo. 17 Strong is similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but for adults.
Wisdom from Adversity
Even though Marisa is still facing issues as a result of her disease and the treatment, she just keeps on keeping on and pushes herself to get up and get moving every day. She has two beautiful granddaughters and she wants to be here for them.
As advice for other women with a breast cancer diagnosis, she says, “Research your options before agreeing to a treatment plan. Stay positive. Take walks and get out in nature. Do not stay in bed. And reach out to others that have been through it.”
Good advice, Marisa!