Gina’s Story

Breast cancer survivor Gina Carbo-Peraza.

Breast cancer survivor Gina Carbo-Peraza.

It’s been almost a year since Gina Carbo-Peraza, 44, saw her life change before her eyes. On Friday, October 25, 2012, she was diagnosed with stage 2 interductal invasive carcinoma, or in simply put, a form of breast cancer where the tumor lives in the milk ducts. The diagnosis scared her, but it was her team of physicians and nurses at Touro Infirmary that made the journey through chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and now the beginning stages of reconstructive surgery a very smooth ride.

“When I was diagnosed, I told my family we have this weekend to grieve, cry, scream, and throw things,” Gina said. “But on Monday, I don’t want to hear it.”

She went through a stringent process for finding the right doctors to take care of her body. She interviewed several oncologists and surgeons, and eventually decided on Dr. Milton Seiler and Dr. Eliana Soto of Touro, mainly because of their ability to give her three options: go for the cure, go for the stability or go for the comfort. Gina went for the cure.

“I find that when you get diagnosed with cancer, everyone wants to tell you their horror story. I didn’t listen to any of that. I picked my plan and went with it. I made my own decision and a year later, here I am.” Gina said. Through the support of her family, friends and the nurses at Touro’s HarryT.HowardIIIMemorialInfusionCenter, she made it through her battle with cancer. And this month, Gina will complete her journey with a reconstructive surgery she’s looking forward to.

“When you go into Dr. [Ali] Sadeghi’s office and he tells you they’re going to reconstruct your breasts with a tummy tuck and take fat from your thighs, things look a little better.” she said. Dr. Sadeghi is a reconstructive surgeon also at Touro.

“Cancer takes everything away that makes you a woman. It takes your hair, your breasts, your ovaries. It crushes you, but you have to reclaim it all back. And for your mental health, it’s worth every penny.” Gina said about her decision to undergo reconstructive surgery at Touro.

For women currently going through treatment or for those who are contemplating reconstructive surgery, Gina has a few words of advice: “don’t look back, just jump right in. You’re your own advocate. Ask questions, and question your doctor. And finally, don’t over think anything.”

Your (Cancer-fighting) Nutrition Delivered

Erik Frank, Founder of Your Nutrition Delivered

Erik Frank, Founder of Your Nutrition Delivered

Erik Frank, Founder of Your Nutrition Delivered
Winner, The Big Idea, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, 2013

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Your Nutrition Delivered is a proud participant of Touro’s 31 Days of Pink campaign! At Your Nutrition Delivered, we believe that food is the key ingredient to fighting cancer. We are proud to offer a variety of meal items with cancer prevention as the number one dietary requirement. Check out our ever-changing menu on our website and give us a call with any specific dietary needs.

As food and wellness professionals, we often get asked what the best foods are to help fight breast cancer. While we know that some types of cancer are hereditary, there are many efforts we can take with our daily diet to help avoid early-onset cancer.

A few tips for women:

  • Drink green tea, and lots of it! Green tea is packed with antioxidant polyphenols, which can potentially cut the risk of cancer.
  • Keep up with your dairy intake, but make sure the items you choose are low in fat. Dairy products supply a serving of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can help hinder the spread of cancer cells
  • Load up on broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, as these vegetables are the “strongest” when it comes to cancer defense.
  • As always, avoid refined carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain cereals instead that offer cancer-fighting nutrients selenium and vitamin E.

We do our best to keep updated on the latest food news when it comes to cancer prevention. One of our favorite recipe books is the Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz. We always keep a copy in our kitchen and source recipes that further support cancer prevention.

Cancer Fighting Kitchen

Remember to stay current with your annual doctor’s visits and always include exercise in your daily routine. We are here to support your nutritional and wellness needs, with both pick up and delivery options that are convenient for you.

Breast cancer is a serious illness that has touched all of us and our families in one way or another. We are thrilled to support Touro in an effort to fight this disease. We encourage all of you to join us in the fight against breast cancer.

YND Breast Cancer Final

Gentle Care and Thoughtful Words: Why I Pink

By: Suzanne Champagne RN, BSN, OCN,
Director, Touro Infirmary Harry T. Howard III Infusion Center

In my office hangs a framed needle point with the phrase “Nurses give gentle care, thoughtful words, and sunshine when there is rain”. This was given to me by my very first breast cancer patient and remains a daily inspiration and reminder of ‘why I pink’.

In 1988, I cared for my first breast cancer patient, Charlene. Charlene was a young mother and I quickly connected with her as our children were the same age. Throughout her chemotherapy, Charlene experienced a great deal of nausea and vomiting, a common side effect of treatment. Despite her discomfort, despite how physically ill she was, Charlene was always positive and smiling when she arrived for her chemo. She always went above and beyond to uplift those around her – even when you could tell she was struggling.

Charlene inspired me to do more to improve symptom management for patients during treatment to improve their quality of life. It was my job to inspire her during her treatment, and she became and remains the inspiration for me. 25 years later, when I feel discouraged, I pause and look at the framed needle point on my office wall and feel inspired by my dear patient Charlene.

Pampered and Pink!

Experiencing a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment is a lot for a person to go through. That’s why the Cancer Program at Touro Infirmary hosted the first Pampered and Pink on Magazine event Tuesday, October 8, a day of fun, pampering and camaraderie for breast cancer patients and survivors.

Thanks to our Pink Partner, Blo Blow Dry, and makeup artists from Walgreen’s on Magazine Street, several ladies were able to get their hair styled and their makeup applied to perfection. All the women left out the salon feeling special, relaxed and beautiful. Mission accomplished!

Check out the photos below of the fun and special day and visit our Facebook page for more photos!

Volunteers from the Look Good, Feel Better program and the American Cancer Society stopped by to share information about wigs, scarves and makeup for cancer patients and survivors.

The Blo stylists hard at work!

The Blo stylists hard at work!

A survivor gets her makeup applied by a Walgreens makeup artist.

A survivor gets her makeup applied by a Walgreen’s makeup artist.

All smiles at our Pink and Pampered event!

All smiles at our Pink and Pampered event!

The Radiation Oncology team at Touro stopped by to visit!

The Radiation Oncology team at Touro stopped by to visit!

Why I Pink: Dr. Elesyia Outlaw

OutlawHeadshot

My name is Elesyia Outlaw.  I am fortunate to be a Radiation Oncologist here at Touro Infirmary.  To be able to take care of the brave women and men who battle breast cancer is an honor.  The poise our patients display during their therapy is remarkable.  It is also contagious and helps remind me to release the insignificant daily frustrations that try to invade my life.

My desire to pink goes beyond my role as a cancer doctor because I am also the daughter of a breast cancer survivor.  My experience during her treatment gave me a view from the other side of the stethoscope.  It helped me to understand how frustrating and nerve-wrecking the process can be for a patient and their family.  I also discovered cancer patients build camaraderie with other patients during the treatment process.  One of the ways I pink at Touro is by being involved with our Support Group for Women with Cancer.  This group meets monthly is open to all women currently undergoing treatment.  It allows them space to not only give, but receive, much-needed support from other women going through a similar experience.

Why do I pink?  I pink on behalf of the brave patients, including my mother, who endured treatments despite sometimes feeling tired, nauseated, frustrated (or a combination of these). I pink in honor of those who succumbed to breast cancer without allowing it to strip them of their dignity.  I pink with hope that one day there will be no need to pink.  But until that day comes, I am committed to making the process less burdensome on our patients’ lives and remind them that they are not in this alone.

Melissa Daigle: Undercover Breast Cancer Patient

By: Melissa Daigle

In May 2010 life was busy and hectic. I was a 32 year old stay at home mom of two.  Eliza was 2 ½ and Libby Kate was 10 months old.  I was consumed with the day to day chores of a wife and mother.  Making snacks, breastfeeding, and changing diapers were my main chores. I did my best to attend play dates so we could all socialize.  I struggled daily to balance keeping my house clean, cook dinner, and play with my girls.  Just thinking about that time period makes me anxious.  My lifelong dream of being a stay at home mom was in progress, but much harder than I had ever imagined.  It was fulfilling and completely exhausting at the same time.  I was in love with my family, but not my life.  I placed so much pressure on myself to do too much.  I focused so much time on worrying about insignificant details.  I was constantly stressed…or so I thought.

Eliza and Libby Kate, Melissa's daughters.

Eliza and Libby Kate, Melissa’s daughters.

In the midst of this whirlwind I began having neck pain, which was not unusual for me.  It had been something I dealt with off and on for a few years.  I got relief from physical therapy in the past, so I did just that.  The pain did not subside.  It only increased.  My primary doctor gave me a couple of injections for the pain over the course of a few weeks.  They only took the edge off for a few hours.  By June the pain was so extreme that my doctor took a few preliminary x-rays at her office and scheduled an MRI for the following week.  That day was the last day of my old life.  The last day I would ever take anything for granted.  The last day I would be able to say that I was a “healthy.”  The last day I would be “normal.”

Ten minutes after I got home from my x-rays I got a phone call from my doctor.  I will never forget the urgency in her voice.  She told me to go to the emergency room immediately.  She saw something terribly wrong in the x-rays and wanted me to have further testing.  I was a bit relieved because I felt like they would finally be able to stop the pain since they found the cause.  I was anticipating a few hours in the ER.  I was pretty sure that the diagnosis would require a surgery or round of medication.  I knew it would be fine, because I was young and healthy.  After all, my 15 year high school reunion was the next night.  I planned on having quite a tale to tell to my old friends.  I knew that the pain was not going to stop me from having fun and enjoying my reunion.

The next 20 hours were spent in the hospital.  I was poked, prodded, scanned, and questioned constantly.  It was horrifying.  My husband and I left the hospital with no answer.  I was advised to take it easy and call my primary care doctor on Monday.  Needless to say, I did not make it to my reunion.

My doctor called me Monday and asked me what hospital I would like to go to for testing.  I told her Touro.  I had a great experience delivering my second daughter there, so I felt very comfortable at Touro.  My doctor told me she would get me an appointment with an oncologist there.  Most people would have realized what that meant.  I knew an oncologist was a cancer physician, but why did I need to see one for neck pain?  I did not have cancer!

First I was sent to the imaging center for a mammogram and biopsy.  I had a biopsy of a lump in my breast that I had for a little over a year.  It appeared during my pregnancy with Libby Kate.  I was avid about exclusive breastfeeding.  I never used bottles.  I did not spoon feed my babies until they were 6 months old.  My gynecologist knew this and believed I had an enlarged milk duct that would shrink once I began nursing. The lump remained the same size when I nursed and never caused pain, so I ignored it.  During my yearly well woman exam a few months later, my doctor recommended that I get a mammogram when I was finished nursing.  I planned to be done nursing in early August.  I did not see how this lump could be involved in my neck pain.  I was totally confused.  I spent the next two weeks in a daze going to the oncologist, the radiologist oncologist, and others I cannot recall now.   I had x rays of every bone in my body.  I learned my way around Touro quickly going from test to test.  I had never been to so many doctors.

The final diagnosis came from the oncologist two weeks after this crazy process began.  You have, “metastatic breast cancer which will require multiple surgeries, medications, chemo, and radiation.”  I do not know what he said after that.  I was numb all over.  My husband and I just sat there in a trance.  We left after the appointment and went to the car.  We sat sobbed and held each other.  We immediately prayed for the strength to tell this to my family.  I had to face them and say, “I have STAGE 4 CANCER. ”  I had to tell them that I had spots in my bones, in my chest, pelvis, and spine.  I kept thinking to myself that I did not do anything to cause cancer.  I never smoked.  I nursed two babies.  I had never had a health problem before.  This could not be possible!  My family came over and my husband told them the news.  I sat there crying as I looked into the faces of my parents, my sisters, and their husbands.  They all looked at me like I was on my death bed.  I could not believe that this was my life.

I reluctantly began my new journey living my life as a cancer patient.  I always had faith and tried to be a good Christian, but felt in control of my life. I had to completely surrender my life and place it in God’s hands.  Cancer was bigger than me; I could not fight it alone.  I could not control my life anymore.  My treatment began in July with two weeks of radiation on my neck and back.  The radiation relieved the pain in my neck.   I began taking daily medication and receiving monthly injections.  I felt like a trial and error science experiment.  I had one surgery to remove my ovaries because they were feeding my estrogen positive cancer.  I had another surgery to remove my tumor.  The main focus of my health is protection of my bones.  The injections have been working for 3 years now.  I have been in and out of remission.  My medications will continue to change each time they stop working.   I have not had chemo yet, but will in the future.  I will never be completely rid of my cancer.  It will appear off and on the radar for the rest of my life.

My current life:

I am a cancer patient, but I am “undercover.” I have long hair, so that definitely does not give me away!  I look healthy and normal.   I take a hand full of meds and vitamins every day and get scans every 4-6 months.  I get blood work and injections monthly.  I am always prepared for my condition to change.

Over the past 2 years I have had many ups and downs.  Good news and bad news.  I have changed.  I am a different person.  I trust with all my heart that God will take care of me and my family.  I do not sweat the small stuff.  I have learned that God will not give me more than I can handle.  I know that I am a strong woman.  I cannot control my future, so I refuse to have anxiety about.  Instead, I choose to embrace the present.  I focus on the gift of each day.  It is up to me to choose to be a survivor each day.  I know that God’s timing is perfect and He will help me to be strong.  Being diagnosed with cancer was the worst and best thing that has ever happened to me.  It is a terrible disease, but it brings out so much love, giving, generosity, and caring in people.  I have never felt more supported and loved as I do now.  I have tons of people praying for me and doing random acts of kindness in my name.  It took a stage 4 cancer diagnosis to bring peace to my life.  It took time and therapy, but I am proud to say that I am my best self.  I am able to love and be loved unconditionally

I used to think my purpose in this life was to be a good mother, wife, and person.  I know now that I was wrong.  My purpose is to be a survivor.  Being a survivor has made me a much better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.  It has opened my eyes to life and love in so many ways.  In closing I leave you with of my new favorite quotes,

 “Be thankful for the bad things in life.  For they opened your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before!” –anonymous

Melissa, her husband and two precious little girls!

Melissa, her husband and two precious little girls!

Why Do You Pink?

Pink remainder note isolated.

There are approximately 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. That’s a lot of women (and men) of strength. In New Orleans and in our families, we have our own bundle of breast cancer survivors that live among us – our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, best friends, cousins, coworkers. With that many survivors, we all have our own breast cancer stories to tell. We all have a reason to pink.

This blog, in connection with Touro Infirmary’s 31 Days of Pink campaign, will be the place to share our stories of survival, courage and healing. By telling our stories, we can help others living with cancer or caring for someone with cancer. All month long, we as a community will come together and share our stories and tell the world “why we pink.”

If you would like to let us know “why you pink,” email us your story at marketing@touro.com and we may share your story with the community. Be sure to visit www.31daysofpink.com for daily information about breast cancer awareness, special events in October and how you can “shop for a cause” with our amazing Pink Partners.

We thank you for your commitment to beating breast cancer, not only in October, but all year long.

 

**Please note all posts sent will subjected to editing for length and appropriateness. Thanks you.