Ten years after doctors treated Donna Cardello’s stage 1 breast cancer in 2000 with a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy, they recommended she forego biannual alternating mammograms and MRIs because she had been “cancer-free” for a decade. “They told me that I no longer needed both tests every six months, just a mammogram annually,” recalled Donna, a bookkeeper and office assistant.
With her strong family history of cancer, Donna, then 50, thought it best to follow doctors’ orders. “My father was gone at 52 from a rare cancer, his two sisters died of breast cancer and my mother died of lung cancer,” she said. “I saw my grandmother and her two sisters die of breast cancer and my two sisters … one now has stage 4 lung cancer and the other has parathyroid and lung cancer. To me, cancer is a life sentence; if I didn’t stay on top of it, I would have followed in their footsteps.”
A year later in 2011, she underwent a screening mammogram. Sure enough, the test revealed a suspicious lump in her left breast, the same breast that was cancerous 10 years ago. A biopsy found precancerous lesions and she opted for a double mastectomy. “I wasn’t shocked I got it (the cancer) again, because I had a feeling I needed to watch it because the chance of recurrence was real.”
Being proactive about her health has paid off for the now 56-year-old grandmother of four and volunteer for the Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition.