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Healthy You

Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Twice

This is the month when our pinked-out country raises awareness about breast cancer. It’s a good time to listen to the stories of those who have been told “You have breast cancer” so that we can be more than just a color, once a year.

Diane Petti, 61, of Mundelein, has been diagnosed not once, but twice with breast cancer, and received treatment at NorthShore’s Kellogg Cancer Center.

Breast Cancer Awareness

When she first got the diagnosis and her doctor talked to her about a mastectomy:

“All I heard after that was just blah, blah, blah—you can’t wrap your brain around it.”

You will cry:

“I would cry when speaking with the nurse and she would calm me down and let me know that we would figure this out. I also cried when my husband wanted to take me to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner but I wanted New York-style pizza.”

Family history:

Diane’s grandmother, aunt and mother all died of breast cancer. Her 49-year old sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and is now fighting ovarian cancer.

Genetic testing:

Because of her family history, Diane underwent genetic testing at NorthShore’s Center for Medical Genetics and discovered she was positive for the BRCA gene. The information helped guide her treatment plan. She had chemotherapy, which may not have been ordered without the genetic diagnosis.

‘‘Knowledge is power—when I got the genetic test results I cried out of happiness because I felt I had an answer and a plan.”

Surround yourself with a good care team, friends and family:

“I needed to talk to my sister and my kids and family about the decisions I needed to make.”

Diane had a double mastectomy and had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Two years later she found two lumps near the implants and had them removed. One was cancerous.

I didn’t realize how crappy I was going to feel:

“My first chemo treatment felt like I was being stung by a bee and I thought, ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’ I always brought two friends with for my treatments. I needed that for me and they wanted to learn about what I was going through.”

Chemo brain is real:

“I would try to do something as simple as paying some bills and could not add 1 + 1. I’d call my sister and have a good cry. She would say you had chemo yesterday and this will pass.”

You may have strange cravings:

“I was very hungry during chemo. I ate a lot of roast beef and green olives. I don’t really like red meat and I can’t eat any more roast beef.”

Stay active:

“Even if I didn’t feel good I would tuck my drains under my sweatshirt and go out with friends.”

Words of wisdom:

“Breast cancer is not a death sentence. Get tested and be proactive about your health. Schedule your mammogram, do self-exams—my doctor told me to make it a habit. When I take my shower I wash my hair, my body and I check my breasts every day.”

Diane has a full life. She has a daughter, two sons and four grandchildren with a fifth on the way.

She spends her time watching her grandchildren, goes to the gym and will be traveling to Hawaii next year to celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary with her husband and family.