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Unexpected Turn in the Journey to Healing

Just weeks after Marie Priest underwent elective bariatric surgery, a procedure to help her conquer her life-threatening obesity, she discovered a lump in her left breast. It was soon diagnosed as stage one cancer.

Another surgery and another ordeal lay just ahead, that of beating breast cancer. Instead of feeling worried and worn down, Marie felt fortunate: her doctors told her that if not for the weight she had lost as a result of her first surgery, she might never have detected the lump at such an early, treatable stage. Her weight loss surgery had saved her life.

Throughout Marie’s journey from suspecting cancer, to surgery, to eventual recovery; she maintained a positive attitude. “It’s going to be okay,” she reassured friends and family. “I never really cried a lot. I knew that if I fell apart so would everyone else.”

The take-charge eldest of eight siblings, Marie is the kind of person who needs to make up her own mind, even when it comes to choosing the specific surgical treatment for her cancer. So when early diagnostic radiology films not only confirmed her breast lump, but also revealed something suspicious; something that might have required follow-up radiation therapy, Marie decided on the surgery she wanted. She chose to have a mastectomy, rather than the more limited surgery of a lumpectomy.
“For me it was better to remove the whole breast and not have to worry.”

After her mastectomy surgery, Marie felt terrific. She walked the hospital hallways dozens of times, keeping her weight down and her spirits up. Marie decided to delay breast reconstruction until she had lost more weight. Marie has realized that humor helps in her recovery, as does reaching out to other patients. She has become an enthusiastic member of patient support groups — a chance for her to give back and help others get through their journeys more easily.

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