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Me and the Girls: Zunilda Guzman

By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Picture of Zunilda Guzman WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivor Zunilda Guzman, 39, lives in the Miami area. Guzman noticed a lump on her chest in April 2008 and thought it might be related to her breast implants. She asked her gynecologist to schedule a mammogram, and the mammogram showed no red flags. So her doctor sent her to the plastic surgeon who'd given her the implants, and he did a biopsy.

Breast Cancer: Me & the Girls

When breast cancer hits home, it's personal. WebMD shares stories and advice from women who know what breast cancer is like firsthand.

  • Zunilda Guzman, 39, had both breasts and ovaries removed after learning she had breast cancer and a high-risk gene.
  • Pamela Cerceo, 51, had both breasts removed even though she didn’t have breast cancer.
  • Diane Morgan, 71, offers advice on what friends should and shouldn't do when someone has breast cancer.
  • Jenee Bobbora, 39, chose not to have breast reconstruction after her mastectomy.
  • Tammy Joyner, 49, talks about telling her sons she had breast cancer.

Read more stories: 

 

"He called me the following day and told me that it was positive, that it was cancer," Guzman says.

"I was devastated. I wanted the world to end," she says. "But immediately, I said, 'I have to deal with this. I have a daughter [Summer, then 9 years old]. She needs to see me very strong because help me God, this does not happen to her, [but if it does] I want her to look back and say, if my mom did it, why can't I do it?"

Guzman has no family history of breast cancer. That's the case with most breast cancer patients -- a family history of the disease is a risk factor, but not having a family history doesn't rule it out.

"I never thought that it could happen to me," says Guzman, who was too young at the time for routine screening mammograms. If she hadn't acted, her cancer might not have been found.

Taking action:  After getting diagnosed, Guzman kicked into high gear. She got MRI and PET scans, and learned that she had a large tumor -- more than 5 centimeters -- that looked like a spider in her left breast, and another suspicious spot in her other breast.

When her doctor at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine outlined her surgical options, Guzman didn't hesitate.

"He told me, you have a choice of just getting one breast removed and me just cleaning up the other one. And I told him, 'No. For my sake, I want both removed.' I didn't even consult my husband. Me, myself, I said this is what I want to do."

Guzman got both breasts surgically removed (a bilateral mastectomy) in June 2009. Then she got genetic testing, which showed she had a BRCA gene mutation that meant she was at high risk not only for breast cancer, but also for ovarian cancer, which has no screening tests.

Again, Guzman quickly opted for aggressive treatment -- having surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus.

"I don't want to wait," she told her doctors. "I want to have everything done so I can start my chemo and get rid of this right away." She had her ovaries and uterus surgically removed a month and a half after her double mastectomy.

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