If Barbara Peruso could offer one bit of advice to women it would be to make getting your annual mammogram a top priority.
“I am an avid believer of mammograms,” the Johnstown resident said. “You just have to get it done.”
The 77-year-old would know.
In February 2007, following a yearly mammogram, cancer was detected in her left breast.
“I never would have found it myself because it was so embedded,” Peruso said.
Hearing that she had breast cancer came as a shock. She admitted that at first she took the news really hard.
“I cried at the drop of a hat,” she said. “I thought this was the nail in coffin, but thankfully that was not the case.”
At the time of her diagnosis, Peruso was employed in Dr. Patti Stefanick’s office doing clerical work. After discussing treatment options with the doctor, the decision was made to have a mastectomy on her left breast.
“We talked about removing both, but I didn’t want to mess around with with that,” she said.
Tests showed the cancer had not spread, and there was no need for chemotherapy or radiation.
“I have said that was one of the simplest and easiest surgeries I’ve been through,” Peruso said. “My recovery period was good and it was so smooth.”
She opted not to have reconstructive surgery because she felt it wasn’t necessary at her age and she didn’t want to do more than what was needed.
“It really doesn’t bother me and I can live with it because, you know, I’m alive and get to see daylight every day,” Peruso said.
Then in March 2009, Peruso said she began to experience severe back pain.
It was discovered that she had an 8-centimeter tumor on her right kidney.
“I thought it had to be from the breast cancer and it had spread, but the doctor said there was no connection and it just happened,” Peruso said.
This time around she did have chemo and following six treatments she was cancer free.
Through both bouts of cancer, Peruso credits the support she received from family and friends and her strong faith as what got her through the tough times.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable the support I’ve received; even people I really didn’t know that well were sending me cards,” she said.
She said her husband of 57 years, Russ, has been her rock. He even goes as far as keeping a detailed log of her diagnosis dates and treatments.
The couple has five children and
13 grandchildren and Peruso said they also have helped her stay positive.
“When you hear you have cancer it takes the wind out of your sails. But you get though it,” she said.
Peruso said the cancer returning is something that is in the back of her mind, but her philosophy is that you just have to roll with the punches and take everything as it comes.
“I have the attitude of my dad who would say whatever happens, happens and what can you do?” she said. “But by the good grace of God the cancer hasn’t come back.”