All of us here at Metaverse received some very sad news yesterday, when we learned that Tamara Antonelli, one of our Project Managers and a long-time member of our team, had passed away. I had the privilege of working closely with Tamara on several projects, and always enjoyed her wit, charm, optimism and “can-do” approach to her job. I will particularly miss having project calls with her, with her French-accented rapid-fire conversational style.
As a tribute to Tamara, we are re-running a blog post she wrote last year. I know that everyone here at Metaverse will miss her.
– Rich Weil, VP of Client Services
In 2010, I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I truly hope that none of you EVER hear the words: “You have cancer.”
I found the lump 3 years prior to my diagnosis. In 2007, when I discovered it, I physically felt as if I would faint. I did not sleep that night. I made an appointment with my family doctor first thing in the morning, and he was kind enough to see me that same day. My doctor examined me and told me that he was certain it was “nothing;” perhaps a cyst, perhaps I had fibrocystic breast disease? Regardless, he assured me it was nothing. At my insistence, we scheduled a mammogram. I was still freaking out with worry.
Four days later I had the mammogram. The technician retook images 5 times on the side I had found the lump, and had me move around. She could feel it but could not see it. She then suggested I get an ultrasound, and so I did. Still, there was nothing to be seen with the mammogram. The following week my doctor told me the tests were inconclusive, and that he thought it was probably “nothing.”
Time passed and the mass I found, which was perhaps the size of a pinball ball when I first found it, was growing. My breast started to change shape and I knew there was something terribly wrong. I made another appointment. My doctor seemed annoyed for the persistence, and again told me it was “nothing.”
I went for another round of mammogram and ultrasound testing, and AGAIN they could not see anything but they could again feel it, and this time they acknowledged my change in shape. When I returned to the doctor, he rolled his eyes, and said everything short of calling me a hypochondriac. I never thought to seek a second opinion, and this is where I am to blame. I put too much confidence and trust in a doctor, a medical professional, who made me doubt and distrust myself.
In September of 2009, we purchased our first house. It was a very happy time in my life! Since we moved 60 miles away from our previous home in San Diego, it was time to find a new family doctor. The appointment was your typical first visit/complete checkup. We booked blood work and chest x-rays. I mentioned that I had terrible sciatica (it had gotten so bad that when I got in my car I had to physically LIFT my left leg with my hand to get in). As I was ready to leave he asked me if there was anything else I was concerned about. I mentioned that I had a lump in my breast and some change to the shape that had concerned me.
The doctor examined my breast, and all color was lost from his face. He said, “I don’t normally do this, but I feel I have to in this case so that you will do exactly as I say because this is serious. Without a mammogram I can tell you that this is 99% cancer. I want you to skip a mammogram/ultrasound and see a surgeon right away.”
I immediately had a biopsy and yes, it was cancer… advanced cancer. Terminal. And, as it turned out, the results of an MRI showed that it wasn’t that my sciatica nerve was severely pinched. In fact, it was not sciatica. My femoral head was 85% gone, the cancer had eaten it up. My hip could snap at any time. Three days later I was in the hospital for a hip replacement surgery.
I am one of the few lucky ones, the cancer is terminal YES, but:
- It is very slow progressing.
- It feeds on estrogen and simple hormone blocking therapy has put me into remission.
- It had only spread to my bones.
My inspiration is my son, and he gives me strength. And I feel so very lucky to have a job that allows me to work from home, it’s been a life saver. Truthfully, I am in a lot of pain daily, but I plan on being here for a very long time. The drugs keep responding well in my system, along with the addition of radiation to my hip and lower back and the monthly chemo injections (which so far have allowed me to keep my hair). These things are a small price to pay to still be alive 6 years later.
Learn from my mistake: if you find ANY anomaly (bump, rippling, etc), check it out immediately! And URGE EVERYONE to self-exam, please. If something seems off, see your doctor ASAP. Trust your gut. If your doctor says “it’s nothing” and tells you’re over-reacting — get a second opinion! You know your body, and you know when something is wrong.
Keep on top of your health. Get your mammograms! And if you can’t afford a mammogram, there are plenty of organizations that will hook you up with a greatly reduced or even free mammograms. Men also get breast cancer. Self exam, it could save your life. I belong to a few support groups and we have a few men that have breast cancer.
And since it’s October — and we see breast cancer pink everywhere, I ask that you pay close attention to any charity program asking for you to donate. It’s a sad fact, but some of the bigger name organizations only give about 13% of the money raised to research. THIRTEEN PERCENT?! Money raised for Breast Cancer should help fund a cure, and not the salary of people promoting awareness. Research an organization’s website if you’re curious about a Pink Ribbon-like program; they are obligated to give financial statements as to how the money is spent. Choose wisely, and keep on wearing that pink. To me, and others like me, the fact you show that you care, and that you are aware, means everything.
Rest in peace, Tamara. You will be missed, but your memory is ours to cherish.
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