Rosenbaum Smith explains that 85% of patients with suspicious calcifications usually have biopsy results that turn out benign, but 15% end up malignant. Vanessa was in the latter set. She had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or stage zero breast cancerâ€“â€“the most common type of noninvasive breast cancerâ€” in which cancer is contained inside the milk ducts. According to the American Cancer Society, DCIS is the most common form of breast cancer, accounting for about 80% of diagnoses in the United States.
Vanessa had calcifications over a large area of her left breast, which eliminated the possibility of a lumpectomy. The surgeon recommended a unilateral mastectomyâ€”the removal of one breastâ€”to treat her cancer, but as a preventive measure Vanessa, a wife and mother of three, decided to have a bilateral mastectomy and ovariectomyâ€”a surgery that removes both breasts and ovaries. â€śI didnâ€™t want to come back 10 years from now and have another lump,â€ť says Vanessa. â€śSo I decided to get everything removed.â€ť
Battling Chemotherapy Together
Within weeks after Vanessaâ€™s surgery, she and her father started chemotherapy together at St. Lukeâ€™s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. Concerned that her father hadnâ€™t received proper post-surgery treatment, Vanessa asked her oncologist to take him as a patient. The doctor recommended chemotherapy for both father and daughterâ€”Arnaldo underwent eight rounds of treatment and Vanessa, four. â€śThey never heard of a case like ours in the hospital,â€ť says Arnaldo. â€śIt spread like wildfire and we became like rock stars.â€ť The treatment itself, however, was not so enjoyable.
â€śIt hits you on the third day,â€ť recalls Arnaldo. â€śYouâ€™re weak; you get this bad taste in your mouth. I wouldnâ€™t wish it on my worst enemy.â€ť They both lost their hair and dropped 30 pounds between the two of them. â€śI describe it as having the flu to the 10th power,â€ť says Vanessa. â€śYour body just aches really badly.â€ť
To better manage the difficult days, the Silvas joined a support dance group of seven female cancer survivors. â€śThis was my support,â€ť says Arnaldo.