When Maria Delgaudio-Dollé learned she had stage 2 breast cancer 23 years ago, she thought doctors had handed her a death sentence.
So much so that the mother of four began planning her then nearly 3-year-old's Sweet 16 party. "I remember thinking I won't see my kids grow up and graduate from college," she recalled. "When they reached these milestones, I was so happy because I didn't think I'd see these things."
The administrative assistant says that same sense of gratitude helped her face a challenging recovery. Two days after reconstructive breast surgery, Maria developed a fast-moving staph infection that required powerful intravenous antibiotics and multiple skin grafts. She was released from the hospital a month later, but the infection continued to "incapacitate" her for nearly a year, during which time community members helped care for her children, cooked for her family and cleaned her house.
When Maria recovered from the infection, doctors told her that chemotherapy would not be effective. Instead, they prescribed an oral hormonal therapy to reduce her breast cancer recurrence risk.
Through it all, Maria says her sense of gratitude coupled with humor helped her confront her fears not just after receiving a cancer diagnosis, but also as she faced other struggles in her life. She says, "Don't worry about tomorrow when you are in the midst of your fight, just get through today.