A Message of Awareness
âItâs very uncommon to see both a father and daughter diagnosed in a very short period of time of each other,â says Dr. Anupama Goel, an attending physician in the division of hematology and oncology at St. Lukeâs-Roosevelt Hospital Center. âArnaldo suffered from a lot of guiltâfeeling guilty he passed this mutation on to his daughter. I told him he canât 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.â
Aside from feelings of guilt, Arnaldo also coped with insensitive remarks from uninformed colleagues and associates. âIsnât breast cancer a womenâs disease?â he recalls them asking. Frustrated by the barrage of objectionable questions, Arnaldo eventually isolated himself at work. âYou start to feel like youâre in a cocoon. Itâs taboo, like you canât talk about it,â he says. As a result, Arnaldo and Vanessa intend to promote a different messageâthat both men and women can get breast cancer, and that knowing your familyâs historyâand if necessary undergoing genetic testingâcan make the difference in saving your life or the lives of your loved ones. Each of Vanessaâs children must take a genetic test at age 25. According to Rosenbaum Smith, if her children test negative, Vanessaâs grandchildren will be fine. âThe gene doesnât skip generations,â 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. âWe have a bond nobody else can understand,â says Arnaldo. âPeople would say, âYou guys are unbelievable, you guys pulled it off.ââ
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.