Breast cancer survivor recalls Mother's Day diagnosis

Chris Fagundes, a co-owner of Java Billiards in Federal Way, is a 12-year survivor of breast cancer. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Chris Fagundes, a co-owner of Java Billiards in Federal Way, is a 12-year survivor of breast cancer.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Chris Fagundes is a 12-year survivor of breast cancer.

One of the longest times of her life was Mother’s Day weekend 1999. That weekend, at age 37, she waited for test results to find out if the lump in her left breast was cancerous.

“I have a whole new respect for Mother’s Day,” said Fagundes, recalling the flowers she received that year. “They bought me tulips because I wanted something that would keep living and growing.”

In fact, the day the doctor called with the prognosis, she went to her son’s baseball game — determined to go on with life.

Less than two weeks after learning she had breast cancer, Fagundes underwent a lumpectomy. Four chemotherapy treatments followed over the next three months. Then came radiation treatment.

“There are very few pictures of me without my hair,” she said. “The boys and the husband shaved their heads. I had all the different bandanas.”

She has been healthy and cancer-free ever since. She receives regular mammograms, and her crisis 12 years ago inspired friends to seek mammograms.

“I begged everybody to go out and get mammograms,” she said, noting that some of those people discovered benign lumps.

The experience has also brought her family closer together.

“You don’t take things for granted quite as much,” she said. “You appreciate birthdays because they’re better than the alternative.”

Fagundes and her husband, Doug, have four children. The couple have owned and operated Java Billiards in Federal Way since 2002. The alcohol-free, smoke-free family friendly pool parlor provides snacks, video games and Wi-Fi. Families can also enjoy movies, televised sports as well as Wii karaoke and other games on a big screen.

Aside from maintaining a solid support network and a good sense of humor, Fagundes found one other key to keeping her spirits high when beating cancer: “I’m a firm believer in the power of the prayer.”

Fast facts from Susan G. Komen Foundation

Lumpectomy (also known as breast conserving surgery or wide excision) is a surgery to remove cancer from the breast. Unlike a mastectomy, a lumpectomy removes only the tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. This leaves the breast looking as close as possible to how it looked before surgery. Most often, the shape of the breast and the nipple area are preserved.

Radiation therapy is given after lumpectomy to get rid of any cancer cells that may remain. This lowers the chances of the cancer coming back.

Lumpectomy plus radiation is an option for many women, including those who have ductal carcinoma in situ or early breast cancer. In some cases, it is also an option for women with locally advanced breast cancer.

Women may choose lumpectomy over mastectomy to keep their breast and have it look as much as possible like it did before surgery. However, lumpectomy may change the look of the breast. Because some tissue is removed, the breast may be smaller, and there will be a scar. Sometimes, factors like the location and size of the tumor can make it unlikely that a woman will be happy with the look of her breast after lumpectomy. In these cases, mastectomy may be the better option.


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