Breast Cancer Survivors

A fathers diagnosis helps spare his daughters life and together they learn how knowing their familys medical history would save others

A Message of Awareness
“It’s very uncommon to see both a father and daughter diagnosed in a very short period of time of each other,” says Dr. Anupama Goel, an attending physician in the division of hematology and oncology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. “Arnaldo suffered from a lot of guilt—feeling guilty he passed this mutation on to his daughter. I told him he can’t control genes or control the way they are passed. I tried to convince him he behaved maturely by getting the test done and sharing it with his family.”

Aside from feelings of guilt, Arnaldo also coped with insensitive remarks from uninformed colleagues and associates. “Isn’t breast cancer a women’s disease?” he recalls them asking. Frustrated by the barrage of objectionable questions, Arnaldo eventually isolated himself at work. “You start to feel like you’re in a cocoon. It’s taboo, like you can’t talk about it,” he says. As a result, Arnaldo and Vanessa intend to promote a different message—that both men and women can get breast cancer, and that knowing your family’s history—and if necessary undergoing genetic testing—can make the difference in saving your life or the lives of your loved ones. Each of Vanessa’s children must take a genetic test at age 25. According to Rosenbaum Smith, if her children test negative, Vanessa’s grandchildren will be fine. “The gene doesn’t skip generations,” she says.

Arnaldo and his daughter, who are now cancer free, schedule checkups every three months and hope to open a foundation in the near future to spread awareness about breast cancer in both sexes. “We have a bond nobody else can understand,” says Arnaldo. “People would say, ‘You guys are unbelievable, you guys pulled it off.’”

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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  • Good afternoon. This is a great article. I know of a male who was diagnosed with breast cancer that would like to speak with Mr. Silva. Is it possible for you to our number along to him?

  • melissa

    This article was interesting I was just diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer it has metastisized. The nurse at the hospital expained to me that my daugters will have to be tested for breast cancer starting at 26 since I was 37 when I recieved my diagnosis. I have heard of men having breast cancer but I was surprised to see how many people in the Silva family carried the gene. My son recently asked me can men get cancer. I told him yes but after reading this article when he comes of age I will recommend he also receive a mamogram.

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  • Ali

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  • Breast cancer, or whatever kind of cancer (kanker) is not an incurable disease. There will always be a way, or even some ways to beat the cancer. Soon, insyaaAllah