BE INSPIRED: Marina's New Normal

Marina E.

A New Normal

I was 30 when I found out I had stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. A few years earlier, I had moved to Southern California from New York City to follow my dreams of an endless summer. I was in my mid-twenties and looking forward to starting my happily-ever-after with my boyfriend (now my husband) who had also moved from New York. To say that I was rocked by the discovery of breast cancer was an understatement.

I returned to New York really thinking I would be heading back on a plane shortly to pick up my life exactly where I had left off. However, when I was told I would have to undergo bilateral mastectomy, chemo and radiation; it felt as though I was watching my dreams of a family and "normal" life go down the drain.

We moved back to New York so I could have my surgery and chemo and then radiation. I won’t lie; it sucked. Prior to my mastectomy surgery, we froze embryos because I was determined to become a mom and we were scared the chemo would fry my eggs, so to speak. My doctors told me I had to take tamoxifen for 5 years and then we could start talking about me getting pregnant.

So, we waited. And when the time finally came, I discovered a tiny bump in my mastectomy scar. Once again, I was right back where I started. After more breast reconstruction surgeries and more radiation, I was told I would have to remove my ovaries and carrying a baby was off the table. We were crushed.

I refused to give up, though. Now, we knew the only way to have a baby was to have someone else carry our embryo. So, we signed on with a surrogacy agency to find a gestational carrier to carry our babies. Once we were matched, our carrier (who was from Oregon) was implanted with our embryos and they both took!

Nine months later we welcomed our little miracles!!!

What helped me through this process, above all else...

My husband, family and friends for their relentless support and positive energy even when I had no energy.

My doctors who reminded me that this would be temporary and I would heal and move on.

My students – I am an elementary school teacher. There is nothing that makes you feel better than a child who is happy to see you each morning.

My dogs - my first babies, who love me unconditionally.

My Timeline:

February 2008 - Had just turned 30 was living in LA came back to NY to have a bilateral skin-sparing mastectomy

March 2008 - Went through fertility treatments to harvest my eggs and freeze our embryos

April 2008 - Started Chemo

June 2008 - Finished Chemo

August 2008 - Radiation

November 2008 - Swapped out my expanders

2009 - Worked on my Masters in Teaching

2010 - Got married

2011 - 2013 - Enjoyed life and work and waited until I could get pregnant

December 2013 - Had a small lump the diameter of the tip of my pinky finger. Removed it. It was the same cancer I had previously. I was told I was not a candidate for carrying a baby.

January 2014 - Had surgery to swap out my implants for new tissue expanders. Matched up with our surrogacy agency.

February 2014 - Had more radiation

June 2014 - Our carrier was implanted with our twins. I had another surgery to swap out my expanders for implants.

July 2014 - The radiated tissue wasn’t able to heal together. My left incision opened twice. The first time they were able to stitch me back up, but...

October 2014 – The second time, they had to remove the left implant, so I only had one boob for a while. That sucked :/

November 2014 - Had a Latissimus Dorsi flap procedure and new tissue expander where skin and muscle from my back was used to reconnect the radiated tissue. Then, I had my ovaries removed later in the month.

December 2014 - Surgery again...Swapped out my left expander for my final implant.

February 2015 - Babies were born

Then we lived happily ever after :)

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