It was the day Keri Chiappino, then 42, and her husband, Brent, had long awaited: the birth of their soon-to-be adopted daughter. But on the way to the hospital, Keri’s doctor called with bad news. “She said the biopsy of a suspicious lump she saw on my mammogram was a fast-growing invasive cancer,” recalled Keri, a Smithtown chiropractor. “I was in shock and thought ‘how could this even be possible with all these beautiful things coming into my life with my daughter?’”
Keri feared she faced an uncertain future and worried she would not be able to care for her newborn. Panicked, she called a radiation oncologist, who was also a friend, and shared her misgivings. “He told me, ‘Breast cancer is not treatable, it’s curable. Go get your baby.’”
Keri did just that. But over the next year and a half, she would undergo multiple surgeries and punishing treatments. Throughout her ordeal, though, she says her daughter and her patients were a source of strength and comfort. “Part of the recovery process for me was to be outside myself,” she said. “I wanted my life to be as normal as possible.” That meant continuing to go to the office and taking care of her newborn. When she felt too sick to get out of bed, her husband, also a chiropractor, would see her patients and they would hire a babysitter.
Today, at 46, she is cancer-free and is also the mother of a two-year-old adopted son. Since her diagnosis, she has launched an online support program healingboobies.com to help breast cancer survivors not only survive but “thrive.” The private Facebook group boasts more than 2,000 members worldwide.
Although cancer has taken some of her “body parts,” she says, the disease has given her a new perspective on life. “Once you have had a life-changing experience like this, you don’t take things for granted,” she said. “It (cancer) teaches you to be in the here and now because it’s the only thing that matters.”