"At age 14 and 16 respectively, my daughters wore the pink robe..."
I should be proud my daughters are following in my footsteps. I certainly want my children to inherit the best qualities I have to offer. It could be my smile, optimism or work ethic. It’s a proud moment when you hear someone compliment how your child is just like you. However, this is not exactly what I had in mind. At age 14 and 16 respectively, my daughters wore the pink robe at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for their first breast ultrasound. Both were diagnosed with fibroadenomas. A tumor that is typically benign. Six months later my now 17 year old underwent an ultrasound guided core biopsy of her right breast where she had felt a lump during a routine self-exam. It’s hard to believe that my first experience with a lumpectomy was at the age of 19 where my fibroadenoma had grown to the size of an olive.
Coincidentally earlier in the week, my girls had taken a genetic test by spitting their saliva into a tube to learn whether or not they carry the PALB2 genetic mutation that runs in my family. PALB2 also known as the Partner and Localizer of the BRACA2 gene which increases hereditary breast cancer risk 5 to 9 times higher than average, among other cancers. I don’t want my daughters or son to follow my footsteps when it comes to my health and genetics. Of course, I have no control over genetics. As a matter of fact, they each have a 50% chance of carrying the PALB2 genetic mutation. Some of you may think they are too young to process this kind of information. However, I would tell you they both proactively asked to be tested so they can become knowledgeable. Information is power!
The day of the biopsy I reminded Sofia information is power. I think that was probably more for me than it was for her. From the moment we entered Cedars Sinai, the medical staff were incredibly kind, and empathetic when inviting me into the room to witness my daughter’s biopsy procedure I had experienced for myself almost a year ago. You might ask - how did this make you feel? I actually felt she was in the best care, and while I didn’t want this for her I knew God was guiding the doctor’s hands so we can learn and get through what we’re meant to get through. Faith has been a big part of my life, and my personal life experiences including my breast cancer journey have helped me learn so much more about myself than I could’ve ever imagined. I never questioned why I got breast cancer —I guess because it ran in my family starting with my grandmother who had a mastectomy of her breast, my aunt (75) and my mother (62) who had lumpectomies and radiation therapy to treat their breast cancer.
"I want to protect my daughters from harm, pain and illness. That's my job."
Nonetheless, I don’t want my girls following my footsteps. I want to protect my children from harm, pain and illness. That’s my job. Yet, the reality is we each have a journey to fulfill. We can’t change the experiences our children are meant to have, but we can certainly give them the confidence, information and tools so they can face tough moments and can do so with grace, love and faith. Watching Sofia be still as multiple needles and equipment were inserted into her breast tissue without flinching showed me she was a strong girl just like me. The way she handled this was what I coined as BRAVE - Beautiful Resilient, a Valient Example. Even the doctor and nurses commented on how good of a patient she was. I admire her for being brave. It was as if she knew what to expect. I know she’s learned through my breast cancer diagnoses what fear and worry looks like. And what strength, faith and courage looks like too.
Walking down into the dimly lit room, monitors on, and the bed covered in white sheets. Sitting down, the technician begins to go over the procedure. Making a couple of jokes intending to relax me, but I was already relaxed. “Lay down, and we’ll begin soon.” Removing my right arm from the pink robe, exposed to my mom and doctors. The primary doctor comes in with a fellow, nurse, and the technician. The primary goes over the procedure one more time, making more jokes and complimenting my mask. With a quick ask of my name and date of birth we began. The doctor asked where my bra or bikini top lays with concern of where my scar will be seen. Hearing the question was surprising, I never knew that doctors would care about a scar. The ultrasound was in progress and the numbing began. Seeing the needle through the monitors was so cool. I couldn’t make out the exact area of the lump, but I saw the needle and where they were injecting Lidocaine. The numbing was done and I began to second guess myself. “Maybe this is too much.” “What if this hurts?” Then I said to myself, “No Sofia, you’re strong, fearless, and confident.” I felt no pain and the process was quick. After the procedure the doctor said his goodbyes and I was left with the nurse and technician. They were funny and complimenting me for being so strong. They wrapped me up and my overly concerned mom told me to be careful while putting on my shirt. Knowing that my mother has had the same procedure and more, empowered me in my decision of having this biopsy. She guided me to the car just as she is guiding me through this experience.
Written February 19, 2021