Why Amber Shares Her Cancer Story

Amber Marchese explains what inspired her to open up about her battle with cancer.

Hello Housewives friends! I hope all of you are enjoying the month of October. Halloween is a rather big deal in the Marchese home, especially for Isabella. You would think she would be afraid of the zombies, witches, and ghosts, but nope, nothing could be too “scary” or “spooky” for her. All of the boys are super busy with school, lacrosse, and CCD, but we always make family time a huge part of our lives. We truly love our time together and cherish every moment together. Sebastian just celebrated his 12th birthday! He is high honors in school and the sweetest young man, we could not be more proud of him. Not a day goes by that he does not give out a compliment to me and/or a hug. Michael is starting the process of applying to high schools. He is also high honors and he is so much like me in so many ways. We have such an amazing bond. Corbin is doing amazing in school and loves lacrosse. Corbin is my quick-witted stinker. He could seriously charm a snake out of basket just by talking. And Isabella, my sweet Isabella. That little girl just melts my heart. Not a day goes by without her hugging, kissing, and telling me how much she loves me. She is funny, light hearted, and sensitive. Clearly, my side of the family. We are getting ready to take our annual “Sleepy Hollow” trip to see the Great Pumpkin Blaze and Headless Horseman attraction. We have been taking this trip for years and the kids just cannot get enough of it. I will post pictures on my social media. 

October is also breast cancer awareness month. I would like to thank Bravo for allowing me to share my story. I am completely honored and grateful to have had the ability to film these amazing moments in my life. When I think of where I was just five years ago to now, I am just in complete amazement. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but if my story encourages even just one person to be proactive with their health, then I have accomplished what I came to do. 

So, you ask? Why? Why do I share my story? Good question, and I will give you a little background. I was 31-years-old when I noticed lumps. While I was breast feeding my daughter, I found several little lumps in my right breast. Jim encouraged me to get them checked out. Really? Ugh… I am a busy mother, I don’t have time for this! Do you know what kind of pain in the ass it is to drag babies to the doctor?! Besides, I am Sicilian, I am prone to cysts. I was sure it was just cysts, since I had many throughout my twenties. All benign, innocent little cysts. However, I begrudgingly went to my gynecologist. My doctor, to my surprise, was concerned. She did not bring my mind to a bad place, but she insisted that I get an ultrasound. After I received my results, my doctor took one look at the ultrasound results and sent me straight to a surgeon for a biopsy. That surgeon sent me away telling me not to worry about it and that my doctor was being far too overly cautious. He felt that she was creating unnecessary stress and anxiety. Despite this surgeon’s position, amazingly, my doctor insisted that I get a biopsy. Well, I got the biopsy, which came back as “atypical cells,” which then required a lumpectomy for further evaluation. To my absolute horror, the surgeon called me to tell me that had “invasive carcinoma”, AKA breast cancer. As you already may know, I went through many surgeries, including a double mastectomy, and a year and half of chemotherapy/adjunctive therapy. I had an aggressive form of breast cancer, so time and aggressive treatment were crucial for me. Fact is, if I would have listened to the surgeon, I would not be here to write this blog to all of you. What you may not know is there are many options for newly diagnosed women with breast cancer. My surgery involved having tissue form my dorsal region transplanted to reconstruct my breasts. There was also skin grafting and tattooing to insure a more natural look. I was pleasantly surprised at my physical appearance post-surgery. My husband and I spent hours researching options for both treatment and reconstruction. My advice to newly diagnosed individuals is to bring a friend, cousin, uncle, wife, husband, whoever to help you take notes on what the doctor is saying. You need someone there to accurately hear through all of the nerves and anxiety. 

After all of my treatment, I had a follow up with my doctor. I asked her, why? Why did she push me so hard to make sure I was properly diagnosed? She told me a story that brought her back to the days of her residency. There was a young girl in her twenties that was dying in the hospital from breast cancer. This young women told my doctor her story. Several years earlier she found a lump, but not one doctor took the lump seriously telling her that she was too young and to go live her life. Unbeknownst to her, she was living with breast cancer and by the time she was diagnosed, it was way into the advanced stages of breast cancer. The young women soon passed on, but her story saved my life. I will never let that young, beautiful woman die in vain without passing her story onto you. So when people dare to say to me, “You talk about cancer too much,” or, “You're using cancer as a card,” I say to them don’t you dare try to shut me up with your ignorance. As another cancer survivor and friend, Brian Dowd, who works tirelessly with the Livestrong foundation said to me once, “As a survivor, it is your duty to tell your story to potentially save others.” That has been etched in my mind ever since, and I proudly will take those marching orders. 

For me the point of this photo shoot was to capture triumph, strength, and victory. I may have the scars, my breasts will never be the same, but I have never felt more powerful and beautiful in my life. If you would like to see more photos from the shoot, check them out here. I wear these scars with pride, as I have earned them. I was completely surprised by my husband when he planned the dinner at the gallery. It was amazing -- three dozen red roses, my pictures on the walls and the paintings -- the whole experience was breathtaking. Jim made sure every detail was covered. He had wine glasses with our family crest as well as a wine carafe. He even had a real shield made for us with my family crest married to his. You can see them all here. Jim and I have seen good and bad times in our lives, but we always manage to make sure we show our appreciation towards each other. I give him a solid TEN for romantic nights and for the planning. For me, it is the thought that counts and this was the perfect way for us to celebrate our love for life. If you would like to see a short video of the filming in the barn I have attached the link. I have learned much about myself and my family this season, but no lesson has been more important than how much the little things matter.

Final note, I have been working hard to raise awareness for breast cancer! Here are a couple of events that I attended throughout the month of October. If you want to donate to any of these organizations, I would be more than grateful!

1. Team NBHN / Team Tackle Jacobi Medical Center, North Central Bronx Hospital

http://www.nyc.gov/html/hhc/jacobi/downloads/pdf/intranet_entries/Team-Tackle-Pines-poster.pdf

2. Brian Wiltz and his soccer team “Think Pink” soccer game raised money for an organization near and dear to my heart, The Beauty Foundation.

http://www.beautyfoundationnj.com

3. The Think Pink event at the Pueblo Convention Center in Pueblo, CO, on October 2.

The Think Pink event supports diagnostic screenings for under insured and underserved women in Pueblo County, the event encourages Breast cancer awareness for the community and reminds everyone to always get checked. 

4. I filmed a segment on The Real airing tomorrow, October 17. They dedicated an entire episode to Breast Cancer Awareness month! I hope you check it out!

http://thereal.com/episodes/keeping-it-real-pink-with-amber-marchese/

Thank you and many blessings, 

Amber Marchese

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