Meet Theresa Butera a Lucille Roberts member since 1991 and Breast Cancer Survivor. In November 2014 she was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive lobia carcinoma in her left breast and underwent a mastectomy in December 2014. Her battle against the disease did not end there, Theresa had reconstruction in March 2015 followed by nipple reconstruction-fat graphing in June 2015. A few other health scares arose during this time but with Theresa’s inner strength and support from friends and family, including the Lucille Roberts Kings Highway team, she always knew giving up wasn’t an option.
Theresa Butera’s Story
What was life like before being diagnosed with Breast Cancer?
Well I have always been a very diligent about my heath and going to the gym has been a part of it. I was still grieving the loss my mom and getting on with my life before I noticed a change in my left nipple.
What was it like after?
The only time I was ever in the hospital was when I had my tonsils out at 4 years old. I went from that to going for 2 biopsies and MRI confirming I had stage 2 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in my left breast. I have no history in my family of Breast Cancer and was told my cancer was estrogen receptor positive. I was told that because it had spread I had to have a mastectomy right away.
How did you cope with your diagnosis?
I remember the doctor explaining every thing to me and saying that I had the option to have reconstruction which I did. I told the doctor I will do whatever it takes to get me well. Of course I was in shock but I am a positive person by nature and I have I faith and that is what got me through that time. I did not have to do chemo and radiation but I have to be on Tamoxifen an estrogen blocker for 10 years.
Describe a low time during your treatment?
There are many low times, but the one that I will share is about 2 years ago after my 3rd surgery of nipple/areola reconstruction and fat graphing I started to notice that my left arm from the shoulder down to my hands was starting to hurt and my range of motion was becoming restricted to the point that I could not put my hand on my hip or brush my hair (mind you I am left handed) I got concerned that the cancer returned so I went to the doctor and they sent me to get an MRI and the good new is that is was not cancer, but the bad news was that I had frozen shoulder, a very painful and debilitating condition that I could not lift my arm over my head and had to go for physical theraphy.
When I asked how I got this they because of the 3 surgeries you received it damaged the nerves on that side and that it would take from 6 months to 2 years for my shoulder to thaw and get back to normal. Also last year I had developed scarred tissue in my left breast know as Capsular Constructor which I had my 4th surgery to remove the implant and replace with another. I can tell you not being able to workout to the capacity that I did was very depressing. Even now having restrictions.
Any support system during these times?
You find out who is really your family and friends at this time and I found out that my uncles 2 in there late seventies and one in there eighties came up from Florida to be with me during my first two surgeries, my two child hood friends 1 came up and one sent a care package and the one person who became my caregiver, going to all my appointments with me and being there fore me is a fellow Lucille Roberts member Candi Espinal.
Was Lucille Roberts a support system?
Lucille Roberts was an essential part of my recovery from the amazing instructors to the members that I have come in contact with and have been my supportive team and just encouraging me. One of those times was walking with me on Sunday, October 15th at the MCU Coney Island Breast Cancer Walk.
How did Lucille Roberts help you?
One of the things the doctors were impressed with was after my surgeries my blood pressure was stable the whole time. They are well aware that I am an active member of Lucille Roberts and the fact that they are responsible for keeping me in shape and getting me back in shape. I am forever grateful.
How does it feel to be a survivor, did you have any doubts that you would defeat breast cancer?
Being a survivor feels amazing and it also puts things in perspective. You realize what is important and who is important and you don’t take anything for granted. I learned also to live and one of the things I did was go on a solo vacation to Aruba this past July for one week and it was amazing. You always have a little doubt, but for me giving up was not an option.
What will you tell other females who are battling this disease to help them?
That it is ok to be scared and have doubt but at the same time never give up hope, do what makes you happy. That there are going to be days that you will feel like giving up, but don’t you are not alone and what I do when I feel that way I stand in front of the mirror with my nine inch scar across my breast where my nipple was and I tell myself I am sexy, confident and beautiful.
Any thing else you would like to share?
Know your body, if something doesn’t look or feel right trust your instinct and have it checked out sooner rather than later. Believe me my doctor told me that I had no lymph nodes (5) that were removed that were cancerous. He said had if I waited another month or two it would have spread and become worse. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, if you haven’t done so please go for your Mammogram.
Let’s help put an end to Breast Cancer. Visit give.bcrf.org/lucilleroberts.
All images for this post is courtesy of Theresa Butera.