Life's Victories--Tom Maligno--2-year survivor
Standalone quote: "Stay educated but remember that everyone is different so don’t compare yourself to others."
As a public interest attorney, Tom Maligno is dedicated to helping people in need, from victims of domestic violence to families in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. "I see people in crisis every day, so I understand that life throws everyone curves," says Tom.
At his annual physical, he mentioned to his primary care doctor "almost as an afterthought" that he'd been having pain in his right breast. Although the doctor didn't feel a lump, he advised Tom to have a mammogram and sonogram.
After the test, the radiologist's report indicated he had nothing to worry about. "I felt great," says Tom. Thankfully, his primary care doctor remained concerned, and he sent Tom to a breast specialist. The specialist told him that 99% of the time, the cysts were benign. But, in the middle of the biopsy, Tom noticed a distinct change in his upbeat tone.
"I suspected right then that it must be cancer," he says, and two days later his suspicion was confirmed.
Tom, who says he's "eternally grateful" to his doctor, underwent a mastectomy, lymphadenectomy and chemotherapy. "Some days were hard, but I kept working through the whole process," he says. "I found it easier to focus on other people's problems."
Helping others has been a lifelong calling for Tom, who started the first legal breast cancer advocacy group on Long Island 20 years ago. More than 500 attorneys volunteered for the group, which fought for patient's rights to insurance, treatment and other issues.
"Back then, insurance companies wouldn't pay for reconstruction or pre-existing conditions," says Tom. "It was a nightmare for women, especially those who were poor."
Tom is proud to say that the hard work of his pro bono group made a real difference. "We won many of those battles, so those who are dealing with breast cancer today aren't facing those obstacles."