Community Member Spotlight: Natalia Pardon
Meet Natalia who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2013. She shares her experience and what has been helpful to her since her diagnosis.
How & when were you diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?
I was diagnosed in 2013 when I was 47 yrs old after a mammogram and ultrasound confirmed what I already knew in my heart. By that time I had been a legal permanent resident for 4 years and I was waiting to finish my citizenship process to apply for insurance because I am a single mom of three. I worked in a hospital as a CNA and the insurance was about $600 that I could not afford. So cancer came when I was uninsured and with three small kids to raise. My sister had worked in a PCP office during the last 16 years as a referral coordinator so she managed to speak with one oncologist that she knew to see if she could take care of me. Thankfully she accepted to see me for free but I had to pay for all the rest including treatment and imaging. Long story short she was nice but every time I needed to ask her something about surgery or something related she was like, "oh don't ask me about that, you have no insurance or money". According to her, I was stage 2. After 16 chemo and countless taxol treatments, I kept complaining about pain in the breast and a mammogram revealed my tumor had not shrunk.
The hospital rejected my treatment because I did not have the $20,000 upfront and finally one MD who knew me from my work at the hospital agreed to work with me and his hospital gave me charity but by that time my savings were gone and also my sister's. Finally, I got my surgery done (radical mastectomy left side) and they found countless tumors in my chest wall and lymph nodes. I had 50 radiation treatments some of which were deep ones and I continued taking the tamoxifen. But I was constantly bleeding so the Obgyn scheduled me for a radical hysterectomy just to find out my cancer was in my ovaries. There is a lot more to say but it would take my years. After that, my doctor told me that he was sure I was a de novo patient and not an early stage.
What type of breast cancer do you have?
My type of cancer is invasive lobular ER/PR+ HER2-
What information/support was most helpful for you when you were newly diagnosed?
Information at that time was pretty much nonexistent to me that is why I became an advocate through Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Honestly by the time of my diagnosis, no one gave me any advice. I already knew a lot because cancer runs in my family.
What's your favorite part about AdvancedBreastCancer.net? How has online support helped you?
My favorite part about Advancedbreastcancer.net is the fact that newly diagnosed patients have a safe and reliable place to go and find resources and information about the disease. It has helped me during my volunteer helpline work recommending patients sites they can navigate for reliable information.
What 3 pieces of advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?
My three pieces of advice would be first to educate yourself about your type of cancer and possible treatments. Every little detail is important and will help to make informed decisions about your health. Second, never be afraid of asking for a second opinion. Doctors do not always have your best interest and after all, it is your life that is at risk, so find one who is knowledgeable but also compassionate. And third, take one day at a time and rest and don't listen to all the things people have to say. Trust your doctor and your gut.
Do you currently have a mentor?