A week before her 38th birthday, Sarita Cruz received the news that she had breast cancer, and the first question she asked the doctor was if she was going to die. After the scare with the diagnosis, the financial consultant and psychology student adopted a positive attitude towards the treatment, which made it lighter and even fun.
In the last chemotherapy session, she went to Oncologia D’Or at Hospital Assunção, in São Bernardo, in the ABC region of São Paulo, aboard a car with a sunroof and dressed as Wonder Woman. The celebration was even entitled to a cake with the phrase “Goodbye old breast, happy new breast”. Next, Sarita shares her journey.
“I have a check-up every year and I’m always attentive to awareness campaigns. In August 2021, I was lying in bed when I did the self-exam and I noticed a lump in my left breast, it looked like a flat mango lump. I was scared and went to sleep thinking on that.
The next day, I managed to schedule an appointment with a mastologist for 15 days. The wait generated a little anxiety, but I always tried to police myself in relation to negative thoughts, to confront them and change them so I don’t suffer ahead of time.
On the day of the appointment, I explained to the doctor what was happening, she examined me and asked for some tests. The day the biopsy result was ready, I woke up and reflected.
If that were my last day of life, my final wish would be to be with the people I love and be grateful to them. If it wasn’t, I would have the commitment to continue living with the joy and spontaneity I’ve always lived. That is, whether the situation was good or bad, I would try to turn something negative into something good.
I went to the gym, came home to get ready and then went to the office. Arriving there, the doctor opened the result and said I had breast cancer — the tumor was 6 cm and was in the initial stage.
My first question was: ‘Am I going to die?’ She told me about the chances of healing with treatment. The second was: ‘Am I going to go bald?’. She said yes, I broke down crying, she gave me a hug and comforted me.
I got the news a week before my 38th birthday. I already had a trip scheduled to celebrate the date and kept my commitment. I enjoyed as much as I could, I was sad when I came back and realized the new reality, but I put it in my head that it was a phase that would pass.
All the knowledge base that I acquired in the faculty of psychology, in addition to my therapeutic process with a psychologist, was important to deal with the situation.
Before starting the first stage, the oncologist warned me that I could have problems with infertility and go into early menopause after cancer treatment. I don’t have children and I don’t have the full conviction of being a mother, but I thought it best to leave the possibility open and did the egg freezing.
On December 23, 2021, I had the first of 16 chemotherapy sessions. Adopting a positive attitude towards the treatment helped me to make the process lighter.
Some simple attitudes made all the difference, one of them was getting ready, going well dressed and makeup for the sessions — I was already sick, I didn’t want to be ugly.
Another custom I created was to prepare and bring a different dish to the entire team, which included everything from the doctors to the cleaning staff. I love to cook, the kitchen has an affective side to me and it was the way I found to repay the affection and care of those people with me. In addition, he took tickets, flowers, balloons, sang and choreographed songs.
I continued with the same routine as before the illness, I just reduced the pace of work. I suffered little from the side effects, I went to college and gym every day —even on chemo days—, I felt more energetic and willing to do weight training.
Another strategy was to resume activities that I liked to do when I was young. Camping, hiking, abseiling, skydiving and paragliding were things I did during the treatment that made me reconnect with myself and with nature.
I had difficult times too, it was not easy to look at myself in the mirror and not recognize myself, I cried many times, but I understood that it was possible to admire myself being bald, without eyebrows and without eyelashes. I did a photo shoot to remember the strong, feminine, sensual woman, with the will to live and who never gave up on being happy.
I was my own inspiration, but the support and motivation of my family, friends and medical staff were also fundamental for me to strengthen myself.
On May 26, 2022, I went to my last session dressed as Wonder Woman, aboard a car with a sunroof holding three colorful balloons “Q16”, chemo number 16. The party was entitled to a cake with the phrase ‘Goodbye old tit, happy new tit’ and personalized cookies. I was happy with the celebration, the first stage was completed.
The second took place on the 12th of July. The surgical indication was for me to remove a quadrant of the left breast, but, for prevention, I chose to do a radical mastectomy of both breasts and I underwent immediate reconstruction.
I’m recovering well and waiting to start the third stage, the radiotherapy sessions. There’s a phrase that I really like from the wisdom of water that goes like this: ‘Water never argues with its obstacles, but gets around them’.
I have faced the journey against cancer with joy and high spirits, I have not lost my essence. I believe there is nothing that we have so little that we cannot share with others, I share my experience and gratitude for life.”
The importance of positivity in treatment
Having a positive attitude can favor the treatment of any disease. Those patients who understand what is going to be done and believe in the success of the process tend to experience fewer side effects and comply with all the steps in the indicated periods.
Several studies have even pointed out that having an optimistic attitude helps in cancer treatment and is associated with a lower incidence of depression. The mood can influence the body and the immune system in recovering from illness.
In this sense, two new specialties were created to support these patients: oncopsychology and oncopsychiatry. In the case of breast cancer, for example, in addition to the disease itself, the woman still needs to deal with body changes, which is a separate chapter and can affect the perception of her femininity, the relationship with her image and influence negatively the psychological part. Therefore, early intervention measures are essential.
Depression can also influence treatment because it is associated with the absence of pleasure in performing usual activities. It brings feelings like hopelessness, sadness, irritability, guilt, apathy and can impair sleep. Mental illness is also associated with low immunity and, in general, contributes to a pessimism of the whole process.
Patient participation is very important, as they need to adhere to treatment and follow guidelines, such as having a proper diet, practicing physical activity and correctly using prescribed medications. In the depressed individual, the mood to follow this journey is impaired, the effort he has to make is much greater.
Fear and a negative attitude can be paralyzing. As a consequence, some people may delay going to the doctor for fear of diagnostic confirmation, may perform treatment inappropriately and incompletely. There are still those who prefer to believe that they do not have the disease and think that the problem will disappear.
Having a support network of family and friends, as well as the support of a multidisciplinary team, composed of doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, nurses, among other professionals, directly influences the well-being of cancer patients and, consequently, their greater adherence. .
It is worth mentioning that the role of the oncologist in this process goes beyond treating the cancer itself. He participates in the patient’s metamorphosis, helping him in his transformation, in changing his habits and in his way of facing life.
Source: Vanessa Petryoncologist at Hospital Assunção, Rede D’Or São Luiz, and Oncologia D’Or Catequese.