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Me and the Girls: Zunilda Guzman


Chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed. Guzman also takes the drug Arimidex and will do so for five years to help prevent cancer's return.

Quick recoveries: Guzman says she took four days off work after her mastectomy and was back at work the second day after her ovaries and uterus were removed.

"I was also at the gym," she says. "I'm a runner. I would run 5 miles a day.... I was very active before all this." Guzman says.

She kept working out through chemotherapy. "During chemo, I never stopped going to the gym," Guzman says. She took a few days off her workouts after each chemotherapy session, and she says the exercise helped her relieve stress and recover.

Guzman's husband, who often went with her to the gym, encouraged her to stay active. "My husband never told me, 'Babe, lie down because you feel bad.' No. 'Let's go around the block and walk the dogs.' Things like that -- always kept me active. And I feel that that helps a lot. "Working out, being active while you're going through all this is very helpful."

Reconstruction planned: Guzman intends to undergo breast reconstruction. "I like to look good," she says. "I like to wear cleavage, I like to wear dresses. But I'm also like a tomboy. I like to wear shorts, go out in the yard, play football, play baseball," she says.

There are several ways that breast reconstruction can be done. One way is for doctors to insert tissue expanders in the area where the breasts were. Those expanders stretch the chest tissue, and over several months, doctors insert fluid into the expanders, making room for implants, which are surgically exchanged for the expanders once the expanders are the right side.

That's the type of reconstruction Guzman says she wants. But she had gotten radiation therapy on one breast, and the radiation may have made her skin not right for expanders.

"They're thinking that maybe the skin is not going to give so much," Guzman says. If that's the case, she'll get another type of breast reconstruction in which doctors transplant tissue from elsewhere in the patient's body to the breast area. That’s a more complicated process.

The breast reconstruction process often starts at the same time as mastectomy, but it doesn't have to. It can be done months or even years later.

No pity wanted: Guzman made it clear to her family and friends that she didn't want pity. "I didn't want, 'Oh, poor thing.' No. I didn't want that at all."

What she wanted was positive support. She says her brother even told people, "If you're going to walk into her house to give her pity, I don't want you in that house." Her family and friends rallied. Her cousins took her to the mall to go shopping, her husband went walking with her and their dogs. And when she was laid off from work a few months ago, she found another accounting job.

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