Her grandmother passed away from the disease at 42; her mother at 39. When Jeannie Rettura of West Babylon was 31, she was also diagnosed with breast cancer. But “I have been in remission for 26 years!” she exclaims, and says she tells that to every woman she speaks to as a longtime volunteer for the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program. “It’s very important to let women know that this isn’t a death sentence,” she says.
After her diagnosis in 1986, Rettura had a mastectomy. Fourteen years later, she tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene. According to the National Cancer Institute, “a woman's risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a deleterious (harmful) BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.” As a preventive measure, Rettura had her other breast and her ovaries removed.
Today, she helps women via the hotline and by visiting underserved communities. “It’s been 26 years since my diagnosis, but I can still relate,” says the retired Spanish teacher, who uses her bilingual skills to reach out to women who don’t speak English. “I tell women they should try to find comfort in doing things that make them feel good. There are many wonderful persons out there who are willing to lend an ear or extend a hand to calm them as they go through their treatment.” Clearly, Rettura is one of them.