4 questions with Angela Correia, mother and breast cancer survivor. She received a cap wig from the Verma Foundation during cancer treatment at Dana Farber in Boston, MA.
How has cancer impacted your family, your children?
Breast cancer is never something I’d thought I’d be going through at my age with 2 small children. My doctor suggested genetic testing based on family history and found out I was a carrier of the BRCA2 gene which puts me a high lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer. I immediately decided to pursue surgery to reduce my risk so I was scheduled for my first mammogram at the age of 37. It was an roller coaster of emotions the first several weeks going from what I thought would be preventive surgery to actually being diagnosed with breast cancer. The first thing that went through my mind after being diagnosed was how am I going to explain this to my children? What will they think? Will they be scared? I am incredibly lucky that my breast cancer was caught at an early stage and did my best to have faith and stay positive throughout surgery, chemo and radiation. My hope is that when my children are older, they look back on this time and and be stronger and more self-resilient for it. When I look back over the events of the last year, I am constantly reminded of how many more positive things came of this experience than the negative. Friends, co-workers, neighbors and family drove my children to activities, provided home cooked meals for my family every week for months, prayed for us and the list goes on and on. It was overwhelming and incredible at the same time the love and support that surrounded us during a challenging time. I am truly blessed for the amazing people that helped us. I feel like I can never thank them enough. It was an incredible lesson my children saw firsthand to see the selflessness of others and I know it left a lasting impression on them. This experience has given me a deeper appreciation to make the most of every day because we never know what our future holds.
What challenges did you face as a mother undergoing treatment?
There were both physical and emotional challenges that I faced undergoing treatment and even afterwards. It was tough to hear my 3 year old asking over and over why I couldn’t pick him up after my double mastectomy since he really was too young to understand what was going on. One of the things that I felt was always a work in progress was staying upbeat and positive not just for me but for my family. As a mom, you are always concerned for your family and I never wanted them to be frightened or upset by the changes that were happening to me physically or to their daily routine. The fatigue and side effects from chemo was especially hard for me because you want so fiercely to provide normalcy for your children. Your kids want to run around and play but just going through the day to day demands felt like a herculean effort. It’s almost as if your life is on pause until your treatments are done and time moves so slowly from 1 treatment to the next. I started off feeling that I could do it all; be a mother, wife, work and go through treatment at the same time. That lasted the first few cycles and then side effects and fatigue took over and I humbly accepted the help at home that was offered from friends and family. It was difficult to accept help in the beginning because internally I did not want to appear weak or vulnerable but I learned to put my pride aside. Learning to let go of the guilt of not being the mother I wanted to be while going through treatment and finding a balance I’d say was my biggest challenge.
How did the cap wig help you as a mom?
I’m extremely grateful to the Verma Foundation for providing me with a cap wig. The wig I had was uncomfortable and did not look natural so once I received my cap wig I wore it to my children’s soccer games, at the bus stop and school activities. It made me feel like my normal self and could just enjoy being with my family. My kiddos especially loved trying it on and just being silly. The cap wig besides being a big help to me provided our family with a lot of laughs and memories so I’m sincerely thankful for this organization.
What do you want other moms out there to know who might also be battling and reading your story?
I’d like other moms going through something similar to not let a cancer diagnosis define them. I was enrolled in a Soulmates program where I was treated that partnered me with a mentor that was several years out from diagnosis and treatment. I’d attend monthly dinners where the mentors and mentees get together and it was refreshing and exactly what I needed during that time. To be around women my age, from all backgrounds (working mothers with families, young professionals, etc) on the other side of everything and doing well was very inspiring. I encourage other moms out there to do something similar and not go through this alone.