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.
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"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
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