How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have two kids. A girl who is 9.5 and a boy who is 9
What do you love about living in Stamford?
I live in Downtown Stamford. I love how year after year there is something new to enjoy. How I can walk with my family to a restaurant, library or even shopping and feel safe while doing it. Last but not least I love the people that I’ve met here who have become great friends and part of my village.
What’s your favorite restaurant and/or place to shop in Stamford?
This is hard! Ok for a restaurant, I love a place that has good pizza and a good salad. Therefore I would choose Coalhouse Pizza and Hope Pizza Restaurant, though John the Baker has the best chicken parm. I also love sushi at FIN II for a date night with my hubby. Favorite place to shop would have to be Homegoods, Marshalls and now the new Five Below on Summer Street.
Tell us about One Tough Cookie.
One Tough Cookie is the nonprofit that I launched on December of 2019. Its mission is to provide emotional support and encouragement to those dealing with cancer, including their caregivers and the Oncology nurse staff. We provide care packages to hospitals that serve as a calling card to a website full or resources, positive content and a community that wants to come together to help our Tough Cookies in any way possible.
Why did you start the non-profit?
Honestly I started the nonprofit for a selfish reason. I needed to find purpose to what I went through during my traumatic experience with cancer before I fell into a rabbit hole of pity. My mind raced constantly with questions like “Why is this happening to me?” “What did I do to deserve this?”. Therefore, as hard as it was, I would force myself to focus on what was happening before me. And that was the amazing support that I was getting from family, friends and people that I had just met. It was invaluable and I felt I had to pay that forward.
Tell us about your breast cancer journey
During a self breast exam during taking a shower, I felt a lump on my left breast. I didn’t think anything of it because no one in my immediate family had ever had cancer and most importantly 9 months prior my mammogram was clear. On September 29th 2015, after a mammogram and ultrasound taken on September 25th of that year, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
The news was given to me through the phone while being alone at home with my two babies, my husband was traveling due to work. I remember the nurse navigator explaining to me next steps and me not hearing clearly anything after the word cancer. I just kept thinking she must not have the right person because I was fine 9 months before. After that call everything happened so quickly. I got a lumpectomy which detected that the cancer was moving pretty quickly since it had already spread to one of my lymph nodes and I was categorized as stage 2 her2 positive.
4 different opinions from 4 different doctors agreed that I needed chemo and that changed my life forever. Since I was considered young at the time, I was 41.5, the cocktail given to me was very aggressive. Soon after my first treatment I lost the very thing I loved about myself, my hair. I cried like a baby and I wanted to escape to a place where no one could see me. Things became increasingly worse after every treatment and my heart would break every time my babies wanted me to hold them but I either didn’t have the strength or was in extreme pain. It was and still is extremely traumatic, yet even through my depressive state I had faith that I would get through it. Then, I ended up with a 0 white blood cell count, fever, an extremely painful fissure and quarantined for close to 10 days. The pain was so severe that for the first time during my journey I felt extremely scared and the thought that I wouldn’t make it and what that would mean for my babies crossed my mind.
I will leave it there because I think that is enough to describe how hard my journey was. And how much harder everything mentioned would’ve been without the support I got from my family, friends and community. It really takes a village.
How are you doing today?
After 16 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy and two reconstructive surgeries, I am cancer free. Woohoo! I do have neuropathy on my feet and hands due to the treatment at the moment I am on hormone preventive therapy until 2027 that has forced me into menopause. As bad as all these side-effects are I am happy to be on this side of things and have faith that this too shall pass.
What do you hope Breast Cancer Awareness Month achieves?
I hope that Breast Cancer Awareness achieves to help people understand that cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care how old you are, how nice or bad you are, whether you had it in your family or not or whether you are a mother of two babies at the time. It appears when least expected and the only way to get ahead of it is to know your body, be on top of your yearly exams and speak up when you feel something is wrong. No one knows you like you.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
The best advice that I’ve gotten from another mom is to breathe and be present in the moment. Life can sometimes have you running around so crazily that precious moments can be easily missed. So breathe and don’t sweat the small stuff!