Elisa Guida, Erie County
I’m very independent and didn’t want any help the first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago. I learned that was really not the way to go and the second time, 10 years ago, I welcomed help from my friends. I had started having mammograms at the age of 35 because I had cystic fibroid breasts and thought I’d never be able to find a lump myself. At 40 a mammogram detected a cluster of micro calcifications.
The first time I had stage 0, had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal. The cancer was back six years later but it went undiagnosed because I had a stereotactic biopsy at 1:00 o’clock but the cancer was at the 12:00 o’clock point. When I got the right diagnosis at year 10, I had two different kinds of cancer. I had DCIS stage 1 and I also had a tubular cancer which is quite rare.
I knew if my cancer came back, that I would have to have a mastectomy. After doing research about reconstructing a radiated breast area, I was 99 % sure that I was NOT going to have reconstruction, but I met with the plastic surgeon anyway. There was no advantage to having reconstruction at the time of surgery vs. years later, if I would choose to do that. I also visited a prosthetics provider so that I could see and feel prosthesis. After all of that I decided NOT to have reconstruction and never looked back and that was 10 years ago.
The mastectomy was easier for me than the lumpectomy had been. I had the mastectomy on Monday, was home on Tuesday, and out grocery shopping on Friday.
I am a custom jeweler and have a love of music and was at one point commissioned to create a guitar string bracelet. Then in 2008 my husband and I went to a Bon Jovi concert and I had the inspiration to get famous artists to give me their guitar strings. I created the nonprofit StringsforaCURE® in 2010. The jewelry made from those strings is what got everyone interested in the charity’s programs and fundraisers. And Jon Bon Jovi is among the many artists who have donated strings. Over 900 pieces have been made and are being worn all over the world.