Tenured Breast Cancer Student- Chiara D'Agostino
Name: Chiara D'Agostino
Age at Enrollment: 42
Major: Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer (10/2014), then stage 4 triple negative breast cancer (10/2016)
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? I didn’t have any symptoms prior to diagnosis, in fact the routine mammogram and yearly physical I had (9/2014) diagnosed me as healthy.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? I accidentally felt a large mass in my left breast in October 2014.
Courses completed: I had neo-adjuvant ACT chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and 5-6 surgeries to fix the implant infections. Since the stage 4 diagnosis, I’ve had radiation, both implants removed for good and am currently on a clinical trial.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? It’s hard for me to identify my scariest moment, I’ve had many since becoming a Cancer Grad, like deciding what kind of surgery to have and with which doctor, losing my breasts, losing my hair, being broken up with and told to move out the week after surgery, fear of recurrence, burying a good friend who died of stage 4, being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and deciding which treatment to take that has a possibility of saving my life, and now - facing death. I’ve gotten through those moments by crying, talking to friends and other women with breast cancer, talking at breast cancer support groups, blogging, taking anti-depressants prescribed by my doctor, seeing my therapist regularly, energy healing, Reiki, massage, praying, meditating, taking walks in nature, speaking to the hospital oncology social worker, and attending chi-gong, mindful meditation, stress relief classes for cancer patients.
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Recently, I’ve experienced depression, so to trick myself into getting off the couch and out of the house, I started drinking decaf coffee and I don’t keep any in the house, so it forces me out every day to get that treat. To help my chemo brain, I make a list everyday of just a few things to do so at the end of the day I feel accomplished. Today’s list was mail letters and get the car washed.
How did/do you find joy during this experience? I find joy in playing with children, laughing with good friends, travel and spending time on a sunny beach, so I just continued to do more of that as needed. I also FINALLY followed my dream to become a fashion model, so being styled and photographed is bring me joy!
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? I learned that I don’t need mounds on my chest to feel like a woman, that I’m even more resilient than I ever thought I was, and that, at least at this moment in time, I’m leaning towards not being afraid of dying.
How do you feel being a flat chested woman? I feel fantastic! I never thought I’d say that (I’d prefer to have my original breasts), but I like that I have sensation in all of my body again, it feels like I have my body back.
Check out the Cancer Grad interview with Chiara on our Facebook Live #WisdomWednesday Replay!