When Claudia Tavano, then 52, was diagnosed with stage I ductal carcinoma in situ of her left breast in 2011, the Sayville resident was convinced the disease would kill her. "All I could think of was how am I going to tell my husband," recalled Claudia, who worried that he would be left a widower grappling with loneliness.
But when she broke the grim news to her husband, Claudia said he calmed her fears and reassured her that she would be "okay."
Claudia underwent breast reconstruction surgery that was beset by complications. After having a double mastectomy, she opted for a DIEP-flap. The procedure moves fatty tissue, blood vessels and skin from a person's lower abdomen to the chest to reconstruct a breast. While she was in recovery following the first phase of her nine-hour surgery, the newly transplanted blood vessels collapsed. "Within 24 hours, I had three surgeries lasting a total of 13 hours," Claudia recalled.
Fortunately, the procedure was successful and Claudia did not require chemotherapy or radiation. Through it all, she says her husband was her "biggest source of strength. He knew how to calm my fears without ever showing his to me."
Nine years later, she is cancer-free and eager to encourage women to take breast cancer detection seriously. Claudia, who has no family history of the disease says, "Just because breast cancer doesn't run in your family, doesn't mean you can't get it."