Breast cancer survivor since September 11, 2009
What does being a Survivor mean to you?
It’s a privilege and a blessing. It’s an opportunity to “make it happen”.
The day I was to begin my chemotherapy, I arrived at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell on 68th Street and saw a sign on the outside of the building that read "Amazing Things Are Happening Here." I have tremendous gratitude for the doctors and nurses at NYPWC, they truly saved my life. My cancer is considered cured, not chronic because it has not metastasized into my major organs.
I hope I can be an inspiration to those who have fears and concerns of what their life will be when the catastrophe blows over.
How has being a Survivor affected your life?
Surviving breast cancer has given me a greater respect and tolerance for others. It has made me learn the fine art of patience. It’s taught me that if you’re not on fire or something is not blowing up, it probably can wait.
I'm not sure how many people are familiar with the type of breast cancer that I have. One third of breast cancers are Her2 positive. Her2 is an over-expression of protein that makes the cancer very aggressive. It has a high rate of recurrence in the first one to three years. Unlike other breast cancers, it has no "off" button.
I have no family history of cancer and am gene negative. However, I was working downtown on 9/11 and although I was not caught in the dust cloud, I did return to work while the WTC site was burning and smoldering. Shortly after, I began to have asthma; I had a premature child in 2005. I had no complications with the pregnancy but my placenta abrupted at seven months. Luckily my son is now healthy. Lastly, I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in June 2008.
I'm truly lucky to be alive given that the cancer advanced from the breast and spread into my lymph nodes. My cancer was stage 3B which was caught just in time given the aggressive nature. I still remember the call from NYPWC saying, "Yes, Ms. Arniotis, you have cancer. It's multi-centric disease that is rapidly and aggressively dividing and multiplying.”
Thankfully, the chemotherapy agents and targeted drug therapy worked well and I had 100% clinical response. More importantly, I had 100% pathological response which I'm told is rare and has a tremendously wonderful prognosis. My breast surgeon later remarked that "it makes you wonder if you even needed surgery." Hopefully this is a preview of what the future of breast cancer treatment will be. It will focus on targeted drug therapies that are specific to the patients individual cancer.
How would you like to be photographed?
I’d like to be shot in a designer gown in diamonds at Bergdorf Goodman. I want to feel glamorous, like I’m ready for a spread in Vogue. The photo would represent my formal introduction to the world. I’d like the person that means most in my life by my side, my son George. I'd also like my two Italian Greyhounds, Achilles and Hera, to appear in the photo with diamond collars.
Credits: Clothing and jewelry courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman. Hair and makeup courtesy of the John Barrett Salon.