A Cancer Survivor’s Story: An ‘Angel’ Gave Her Life Back
June is National Cancer Survivors Month. We will be telling the remarkable stories of patients whose treatments at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center have enabled them to return to a normal life.
Marcela Vieira couldn’t believe that cancer kept coming back. Her first bout was with breast cancer in 2002, when she was only 36. It returned in 2010. In 2013, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It also returned, in 2014.
“At first you don’t believe it, and you ask, ‘Why me?’” she said.
Vieira has endured multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstructive surgery. With help from her husband, Hedilson, she has also raised twin boys, Lucas and Giovanni, now 15, and a daughter, Sabrina, now 11, and she has never quit working.
Along the way, Vieira also received the answer to her “Why me?” question — she carries the BRCA gene. But then, out of other answers, her doctors suggested that she explore additional treatment options at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. That is how she met Brian Slomovitz, M.D., co-leader of Sylvester’s Gynecologic Cancers Site Disease Group and director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology.
“Here at Sylvester, we focus on two things,” said Slomovitz. “Giving patients the best treatment options — doing whatever we can to take the disease away — but just as important, doing whatever we can to help them maintain their quality of life.”
Slomovitz put Vieira into a trial of a PARP inhibitor — a drug for advanced ovarian and breast cancers that inhibits tumor growth — and today, at 52, she leads a busy, normal life of working, raising her family and walking her dog for exercise. First, however, she had to undergo another course of chemotherapy with a drug to which she had had an allergic reaction in the past.
“He was able to come up with the right dose,” said Vieira. “I went through six cycles and did not have a single reaction. He’s a genius, the way he explained things. I am someone who needs to have things explained to me and know what’s going on. In addition, all the rest of the people at Sylvester are incredible — they’re so professional, and they know exactly what they need to do. Believe me, I’ve been to many other places, and nothing compares to Sylvester.”
“The traditional therapies that we have used in the past are getting better,” said Slomovitz. “Patients are living longer, doing the things they want to do and not suffering as much.”
“Dr. Slomovitz is my angel,” said Vieira.