From the moment Mely Mamaradlo found the lump, she knew she had cancer.
Even though the first mammogram came up negative, a follow-up appointment and a biopsy confirmed her worst fears.
But instead of giving in to tears, she found herself comforting her daughter, Jean, who had accompanied her during the visit.
“I didn’t cry,” said the 66-year-old mother of two and grandmother of five. “I said, ‘You know something? I am not going to die. I am going to fight this. I’m going to live to see my grandchildren grow.'”
And now six years later, the Fairfield resident is cancer-free and doing just that.
She remembers how quickly everything happened, once the diagnosis was confirmed on March 19, 2003. She had her mastectomy one week later. Numerous sessions of chemotherapy and radiation would follow. “I remember praying to God, ‘If this is your will, fine. But please don’t let me suffer. I will fight, just help me.'”
Not long after she started chemotherapy, she started losing hair in clumps. She remembers one day looking at herself in the mirror when her grandson, Jackson, then 6, walked in.
“Don’t worry, Grandma, you are still pretty. It will grow back!” “And he was right,” she said with a smile.
Mely, who has worked for 33 years in NorthBay Medical Center’s Environmental Services department, is the unspoken authority on linens. She reluctantly relinquished that oversight for a year, while she focused on health and recovery.
“I had it. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t know how I got it. But all I ask is that you pray for me,” she told Marc, her husband of 49 years.
She insisted on going to treatment by herself, and putting up a strong front.
“There is a time when you’re sad,” she admitted. “What I did was watch funny movies. Then I laughed, and everything was fine. Laughing helped a lot with the healing process.”
She eventually decided to explore the concept of reconstructive surgery, and it may well have saved her life.
An East Bay physician removed some tissue from her “good” breast and found—by accident—a growth that most likely would have evolved into full-blown cancer if left untouched.
When she first heard the news, she was devastated to learn that her cancer had returned.
“No,” explained her NorthBay Cancer Center oncologist, Dr. Brian Vikstrom. “This is good news. He got it all. It’s all gone! They got it by accident, but they got it all!”
Today, she advises breast cancer patients to try and generate positive energy. “Cancer is a disease that plays on your emotions. It will make you go down faster if you give in to those emotions. Don’t think, just pray.” And, she noted, with today’s breakthroughs in medication and technology, there’s a better chance than ever at survival.
“I tell women to fight, because that’s what I did. And I’m standing now.”