Finished treatment 5 or more years ago
Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT)
Lumpectomy (Excisional Biopsy)
Vitamin C (High Doses)Load More
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York City)
Since my story is pretty lengthy I thought I’d put an overview of all the things I did. Treatment type, reactions and side effects vary by person as no two cancers are alike. What worked for me may not work for someone else but the purpose of sharing my information is to find other commonalities, engage in conversations and provide support. As always consult with your doctor.
In a Nutshell I...
- Became vegan for three months after being diagnosed. Then vegetarian cutting out dairy and all processed foods.
- Ate healthy foods, lots and lots of vegetables, fruits and legumes along with fresh juices daily.
My favorite juice:
Spinach/kale (any green leafy veggie)
lemon – add a bit of bite
- Exercised on a regular basis. I envisioned my good cells destroying the bad cancer cells...take that!!
- Acupuncture and herb therapy for about two months.
- Had surgery (a Lumpectomy) which also included removing 21 lymph nodes 3 of which were positive.
- Maintained a positive outlook—ALWAYS. I went on trying to keep life as normal as possible. It made it easier for my family too and kept them from checking up on me constantly.
- Had support of an unbelievable group of family and friends. This is so important. I know it’s not possible for everyone but try to find people who supports you. Those on this site can help provide that too.
- Corrected everyone when they said I was sick or that I have cancer to I had cancer and I'm not sick. I didn’t feel sick and I never thought of myself as being sick. I guess I had some kind of goggles on that made me look my normal self. Looking back at some pictures I actually looked a little different but I didn’t see myself as that back then.
- Read lots of books (The China Study, The Secret, Beating Cancer with Nutrition, etc.) watched videos (Food Matters, The Beautiful Truth, Crazy Sexy Cancer, etc.) and did lots of research online.
- Took a variety vitamins and supplements that my doctor recommended.
- Took Escozul— treatment used in Cuba.
- Went through IPT (Insulin Potentiation Therapy) Sessions.
- Did a few cleanses.
Four years later... I'm still taking vitamins/supplement, I'm still a vegetarian, juicing daily, maintaining my stress level...keeping it down, trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep and exercising.
My name is Mailet Lopez. I'm a 37-year-old woman who was born in Cuba and migrated to the US in 1980 as part of the Mariel boatlift. I grew up on Long Island, and with the guidance of my parents, was able to master a new culture and the English language. Along the way I developed a passion for design and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design. During my last years of college, I ran my own digital design studio.. This experience led me to a career in new media with a leading agency in New York.
Two months after 9/11, I co-founded Squeaky Wheel Media, a minority/woman-owned, award-winning digital communications agency in New York City.
In March of 2008, at the age of 33 I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma). This news, as you can imagine, was not something I expected. My first thoughts were... Huh? Did I hear correctly? How? Really...me?
And so my journey began...
Over the past few months I had been noticing changes to my body. After years of managing my menstrual cycle with various brands of birth control pills, I started feeling bloated and my periods were getting really heavy. I decided to schedule an appointment with my OB-GYN because during a self examination I found a lump on the right side of my breast. My doctor confirmed the lump and ordered a mammogram.
In addition, while examining me, she asked me if I was aware I had fibroids. I told her I wasn’t and that I was confuse as to why they weren’t detected during my annual exam six months ago? Anyway, she went ahead and also ordered a pelvic sonogram.
I stopped taking the pill altogether. Something told me that the pill might be playing a role in all of the changes in my body, and it was best for me to take a break. In addition to getting rid of artificial hormones, I became a vegetarian. Several months before I found the lump, serendipitously, a client recommended I read "The China Study". It was insightful. The author argued that there was a connection between animal protein and cancer. The book made sense to me and in an effort to completely cleanse my body, I stopped eating meat.
In March, I went for the sonogram and mammogram. The sonogram found two fibroids, one the size of a grapefruit, the other the size of a golf ball. Is it possible that I developed such a big fibroid in just a few months? The fibroids, it turns out were the cause of my heavy periods but I still felt that birth control pills weren’t a good option for me.
The mammogram found a mass so my doctor recommended I see a breast surgeon who then sent me for a biopsy. A couple of days before my appointment I was putting on deodorant when I felt it glide over something. It was a large lump under my right arm. I mentioned this to the technician doing the biopsy who said that based on the results my doctor would let me know if additional tests were necessary. I would get the results in a few days. Those were some of the longest days of my life.
I had a trip to Florida scheduled the day after my test so I asked the surgeon to call me as soon as the results were in regardless of the outcome. I was going to be with family and wanted to share the news with them.
My sister and I spent the next few days at our cousin Liz's house in Florida. On our first morning there at around 7am, I got a call from my general doctor who was on the list to receive the results.
"How are you doing?" he asked, "They got the results yesterday, did they give them to you?"
To this I replied, "Not yet, why? What is it?"
"Positive." he said.
Did I hear correctly? I have cancer? I have breast cancer?
I guess I didn't know what to expect. After the news sunk in I did the only thing I could do, I cried. My sister who was sleeping next to me woke up and started crying as she tried to comfort me. After about an hour, we finally got up. I was done crying. There was nothing I could do right now that I wasn't already doing except move forward with our plans: a day at the beach.
We spent the day at the beach with my cousin Yannis, who lost his mom to ovarian cancer in 2006. I took advantage of the fact that it was just the three of us to share the news with him. He took it well with lots of optimism, just as I had expected. I am blessed with a strong family which helps with the battles cancer patients have to deal with.
That night back at Liz's house I would share the news with her. We decided we were not going to tell anyone until I told my parents first in a couple of days. I thought it was important for them to hear the news from me and certainly not over the phone.
The next morning we had plans to go to the beach again but Liz and my sister didn't feel like doing anything except staying in bed. It wasn't part of my agenda. I was there to have a good time and that's exactly what we were going to do. Cancer was not going to start taking control of my life.
It was a great beach day, a bit of a reunion with several family members joining us. It was one of those days that couldn't have been more perfect if it weren't for the secret we were keeping. This secret was even harder to keep as the conversation turned to cancer. My cousin Jackie would call a few days later as she found out about my news to say how strong I was and how well I was dealing with everything. She couldn't believe my spirits and positive attitude.
On Monday, March 30th, as soon as my sister and I arrived back in New York we went straight to the surgeon's office to get the "official results." Yes, it was positive, it was cancer and I was sent to get a biopsy of the lump under my arm along with a PET CT scan.
The second biopsy/scan came back positive which meant that it had gone to my lymph nodes. It was stage 2 and surgery was recommended as soon as possible. The lump on my breast was said to be about 4cm. Chemotherapy wasn't optional because of the size and the fact that it had gone to my lymph nodes.
I had two options:
- Remove the whole breast (mastectomy) and undergo radiation and chemotherapy. The mastectomy was highly recommended.
- Do chemo first to shrink the tumor then have surgery, followed by radiation.
That night I broke the news to my family. It was by far the toughest thing I've ever had to do. But everyone was great and the out-pouring of support was amazing. My mom immediately volunteered to shave her head.
I continued to weigh my options, not comfortable with either scenario presented. I was convinced there was another way. So I got a second opinion.
I went to Sloan Kettering, one of the leading cancer hospitals on the planet.. The surgeon there recommended a lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemo. That certainly sounded better then a mastectomy! Chemo on the other hand...I still had to get used to the sound of that.
The surgeon recommended I schedule my surgery as soon as possible. He wanted me to do it the following week.
Things were moving too quickly. I had some big decisions to make, ones that would affect the rest of my life. I wanted time to think. I knew I would go with the lumpectomy at Sloan Kettering but I wanted to buy myself some time and pushed for 3 weeks later. The surgeon agreed but no later than that. My surgery was scheduled for April 25th.
I had an ulterior motive for pushing the surgery. I was waiting on some Escozul (treatment used in Cuba). I began taking it about 2 weeks before the surgery.
Two weeks before my surgery I cut my hair short. If I had to go through chemo I wanted to gradually shorten my hair so that if it all fell out it wouldn't be too shocking for me.
On April 19th, my sister, a couple of friends and I went out for a pre-surgery celebration.
After my diagnosis I was determined to do everything (natural) I could possibly do. I became vegan which seemed to be a logical choice when I had already committed to being vegetarian, but I found the diet too strict and difficult to maintain. I remained a vegetarian, but gradually introduced small amounts of (organic, hormone-free) dairy back into my diet. I also began drinking freshly made organic juices that consisted of carrots, beets, broccoli, and oranges daily. I couldn’t control cancer, but I could control every single thing I put into my body.
On Friday, April 25th (a day I'll never forget) I went in for surgery. It was a success. The surgeon removed a larger area around the tumor to ensure that we had clean margins (if they weren't I'd have to go back for an additional surgery). Tests of the surrounding areas were negative which meant I wouldn't have to go back. I went home with a drain below my right arm and limited movement. I took the following week off from work and allowed myself to recover.
My Medical Records
Although I’m sharing my medical records with you, I ask that you do NOT do the same for privacy reasons. I went though and made sure that any sensitive information was removed before I did so.
Why would I want to share this? I’m sharing this information because it’s part of my story, and there is power in stories. If you’re life has been touched by cancer – whether you or someone you love has been diagnosed - you can learn from my (and others) experience. Perhaps reading my biopsy or pathology report will make it just a bit less scary for you. Maybe you’ll feel more confident approaching your oncologist about treatment options when you’ve read the results of someone else who went through what’s happening to you right now. Whatever the case, my intention is to be a resource and share what I’ve learned.
So here it is:
After a week of recovery I went for a follow up and had the drain removed. We went over the results and it was confirmed that everything had gone well. The tumor removed measured 2cm - half the size of what was originally detected. In addition, 21 lymph nodes were removed from my arm pit, three of which were positive.
We talked next steps and I was put in touch with an oncologist, to map out the chemo and radiation schedule.
From the beginning I was very much against chemo and radiation. Just because it was the standard protocol it didn't mean it was right for me. Regardless, I was being pushed by my family and friends to do it, so I set up an appointment.
I met the oncologist and went over the plan which included chemo followed by radiation. The oncologist asked me to stop taking all vitamins and supplements as they could interfere with treatment.. She also explained I needed a port, my veins wouldn't be able to take everything that was coming. I wasn't happy about any of this, but I complied.
An EKG was next to make sure my heart was going to be able to handle the treatment.
In addition, we went over preserving some of my eggs. One of the side effects of chemo and radiation was the chance that I could become infertile and I needed to decide now if this was something I wanted to do.. We concluded our consultation with a tour of the treatment area which included semi-private rooms outfitted with comfy looking recliners, a TV and DVD players. The chemo sessions were 4 hours each and this arrangement would help pass the time. I scheduled my sessions to begin after the fourth of July.
As suggested, I scheduled an appointment with a fertility doctor in NYC. It was quite a process, requiring lots of visits and injecting myself. I went through two rounds of the process over the course of two months. The large fibroid made it a painful retrieval process. In the end I have five viable eggs frozen somewhere should I ever need them. Not many but at least they provide hope and possibilities.