Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
It was March 15, 2013 when I noticed a grape size lump in my left breast. I didn’t think anything of it because of course I just had a mammo in November, which was normal, and I have no family history. So I chalked it up to hormones, maybe a bad fitting bra? (really..what was I thinking). After all, I was in my 40’s. Then it doubled in size by April 1, 2013. I thought OH NO, it can’t be. Within a week had another mammo, ultrasound and biopsy. My call came at 822am on April 22,2013.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
Utter and complete SILENCE. It was like the world stopped spinning. All I heard was my Dr. muttering a bunch of statistics and then he said “Monique, it’s really bad and you have to get it out soon.” I hung up and called my ‘rock’, my husband. He said “WE WILL get through it, I won’t let you go that easy.”
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
My first doctor said I would have surgery, chemo then radiation BUT something didn’t feel right. So I took a deep breath and discussed it with my daughter, husband, family & close friends. Together, we did some research. We found Dr. Anne Wallace at UCSD Moores Cancer Center. On May 15,2013 she proposed Plan A, Plan B and Plan C… I choose Plan A. She explained to me that I just didn’t have Breast Cancer, I had Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I may qualify for the ISPY2 Clinical Trial. I qualified and received the investigational drug.
The trial required 16 weeks of chemo (12 for the trial + 4 traditional treatment) before a lumpectomy (neoadjuvant therapy), then 42 days of radiation! I told my husband that if my contribution can save future lives not matter what my outcome would be, I was all in!
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
The amount of energy, dedication and commitment you have to have, to just survive. The compassion of everyone who cared for me, was amazing. I never thought I would have built so many relationships from this ’lump’ in my road. Chemo was long and boring. Most cancer patients don’t want to talk about their disease or even embrace it. I tried to make the best of it by having theme’s every week. Like Hawaiian Day, Yellow Day and my last one was Super Hero Day! The strength and response from my family & friends made each treatment easier.. Oh yes, I was surprised that my tumor shrank too!
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
BREATHE, take a very deep breath, scream if you have to and ask questions, Don’t REACT on emotion even though you just want it out and it’s a natural reaction. Think long term. Talk about it. Take advantage of all the resources that are offered. See if you qualify for a clinical trial. Include family and friends. Make a plan and be positive! Education is your best defense in fighting your disease.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned that living is about ‘quality’ not ‘quantity’. Like the poem ‘The Dash’ by Linda Ellis. Allow people to help you because they want to. Some relationships will grow and some will be on ‘pause’ during the journey and that’s OK. I wasn’t the only one with cancer, it changed and affected everyone around me. Cancer is a helpless disease for those who care for you. Embrace each moment and say ‘yes’ rather then ‘no’ because you may not get another chance. My life has 2 parts now, ‘BC’ my Before Cancer and my ‘AC’= After Cancer. I am thankful to have a 2nd chance. I like my ‘AC’ much better.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
My message would be The Serenity Prayer “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
Monique Binda is a 1 year Cancer Survivor. She was diagnosed with Stage IIB Triple Negative Breast Cancer on April 22, 2013. As a participant of the I-SPY2 clinical trial at UCSD Moores Cancer Center, Monique completed 16 weeks of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and 42 days of radiation. Monique hopes to promote breast cancer awareness through outreach and participation in fundraising events through the American Cancer Society. With a passion to give back, she formed a team called Mo’s Angels that participates in ‘Walk for a Cause’, ACS ‘Making Strides’ and ‘Pedal The Cause’ Team – On The Go For MO! Together they were able to raise over $9,000 for cancer research!