For Anna Llanos of Danbury, 2011 has been quite a grand performance. She joined her husband, Mark, only a few weeks after her second surgery and her last round of chemotherapy to take part in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet at the Danbury Music Centre. This annual tradition for the children snowballed into the debut of the entire family on stage this year, and Anna wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a vibrant mother of five (ages 5 through 14), Anna said breast cancer is something she accommodated only by keeping her family close, accepting the kindness of friends and even strangers, and drawing on her faith to live her life moving forward.
“We are a high-speed family. It's the soap box derby kind of ‘fall down the hill’ kind of speed. We carry a lot of weight, the seven of us, and once we get going, our life needs no outside propulsion; we turbo by without even thinking about it,” wrote the 40-year-old in her blog entitled, “Breastography.”
Llanos was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2011 after finding a lump that “wasn't ebbing with the flow of those hormonal lumps. I knew it was time to see the doctor. I was shocked when she informed me that it had been seven years since my last yearly check-up, and five years since my last mammogram.”
A series of imaging tests and a breast biopsy confirmed the worst, landing Anna in the office of Valerie Staradub, MD, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon recruited by Danbury Hospital last year, who came highly regarded by Anna’s primary care physician and long-trusted midwife. “It was a big relief to know that my surgeon specialized exclusively in breast surgery. She and her team were warm and positive. I felt comfortable, because they were confident in their capabilities and couldn’t have been more helpful,” Llanos said.
As members of Western Connecticut Health Network, both Danbury and New Milford hospitals maintain coordinated Breast Care Programs inclusive of certified breast imaging centers and clinical research programs. Both hospitals conduct cancer case conferences to offer patients a consensus of expert opinions on the recommended treatment options, while using the latest technology and dedicated teams to diagnose, treat and support patients close to home.
With surgery and chemotherapy behind her, Llanos will begin radiation treatments in the New Year. She remains positive, and is looking forward to being freed up from the challenges of her treatment schedule, having her hair grow back, and enjoying her family and work as a professional baker – her specialty being wedding cakes.
“I am a busy woman, and I have learned to open and up and receive from other people around me. If there is anything I would tell another patient, it would be to share what you are going through with the people around you. Don’t go it alone. People want to help; let them. Every little bit of support makes a difference,” said Llanos.
Llanos is grateful for the level of care she received at Danbury Hospital, and is following “the script” to finish the major portion of her treatment before spring. She is charging forward – reminding those around her that life is not an audition, and you only get to play the starring role once.
After her one breast biopsy at the hospital, Llanos recalls one caregiver who asked “if he could say a little prayer for me. With his hand on my ankle, he spreads a little peace and joy. I look at him once he is finished, and thank him for bringing light and beauty into this place. He shines where he is. We all need to shine wherever we are.”
View WCHN’s entry in the Pink Glove Dance video contest, a fun way to help increase breast cancer awareness.
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