#Column: Survivor shares her story

Keys woman elects bilateral mastectomy

#Column: Survivor shares her story

Marisol Garcia, 42, is very open about her experience with breast cancer. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, she said, and if her story can help just one woman, or prompt one woman to get a mammogram, then the emotions of reliving her ordeal are worth it.

“I’m happy to talk about it. I put it all out there,” she said on a recent morning, from her office at Fishermen’s Hospital outpatient cardiology center.

Marisol was diagnosed 17 months ago, although she knew some time before that she had a problem.

“I found a lump in the shower, but at the time my husband was dealing with melanoma, so I decided to wait until he was finished with treatment,” she said. “We kept it to ourselves.”

When the diagnosis came back positive for cancer in the left breast, her doctor recommended its removal. Marisol made a quick decision.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do with one breast? Take them both,’” she said.

By electing surgery, she skipped both the chemotherapy and radiation treatments for which she is thankful.

“My journey was not as hard as some of the other women I met, but I’ll never be the same person. Having all your ‘parts’ is an important part of being a woman, but I try not to trip myself up psychologically,” she said. “It’s mentally hard.”

When asked what advice she has for other women, Marisol’s response is one of prevention … and very emotional.

“Do NOT put yourself on the back burner. Love yourselves enough to give yourself that one day to go and get a mammogram. You don’t think it can happen to you and then you get caught up in the role of caregiver for everyone in your family … and suddenly there it is.”

Marisol has four children — Michael, 28, Celena, 24, Giovanni, 21 and Sacha, 16. She was born in raised in Marathon. Her deep connection with the community, and the hospital, has been very helpful she said.

“I can’t say enough good things about Fishermen’s Hospital. Marisol has special praise for mammography technologist Lynn Romo — or the “mammo chick,” as Marisol calls her — and Radiologist Dr. Suzanne Shepherd.

“They are my heroes. They were just compassionate and supportive and caring. I could not have done this without them,” Marisol said, adding the hospital was quick to diagnose and treat her breast cancer. “Nobody dragged their feet. I think it might have been harder if I had more time to think about it.”

Editor Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes small and weird children (she has two); prefers target practice with a zombie rat poster; and looks best with saltwater dreads. Occasionally she tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.

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