Thursday, March 31, 2011



Ellen Gondola

I was in my early 20's when I felt a strange lump behind my nipple. It wasn't painful, but I knew it wasn't "right". I first went to my general MD, after all, who thinks breast cancer when you're barely 22?  I was told it was probably a case of mastitis, as I was a runner, and it was most likely due to irritation from my running bra's. Given antibiotics, I was on my way.

Two weeks later, a full course of antibiotics and the lump was still there. Something in my gut said to get it checked out. I went back to the doctor. I heard that it was, again, "probably nothing", but this time, those little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I couldn't accept that. I needed to know for sure. I asked for an x-ray, or a mammogram, and was told I was too young to be concerned about cancer. "Too young"? The words rang in my ears as I left the doctors office. I spent that night thinking of all the children that get cancer.  I went to my Gyn's office the next morning with out calling first. I was suddenly terrified of this 'thing' growing inside me. I begged at the window to be seen by  the doctor, and was told I could wait. When I was finally fit in, the Dr. said the same thing "nothing to worry about, you're too young".

Again, I asked for an x-ray, or a mammogram. He smiled at me and said that he'd had enough experience to know when something like that was needed, and I should go home, and stop being dramatic.I tried, I did. I tried to ignore it. But I couldn't. So, I found another MD...and then, took four months, and countless doctors before I found one that said "Yes, this does need looking into"!

One mammogram, one diagnosis. DCIS ( ductile carcinoma in situ) Oh, there were needle biopsies, and all the other needed tests, but without that mammogram, they never would have happened.

My surgery was scheduled quickly, and unfortunately without researching surgeons, I was left with a botched surgical site. My nipple sutured half inside, half out. The surgeon taking far more than just the ducts and glands that needed to be taken, as if he'd used an ice cream scoop, rather than a scalpel.
Days after surgery, my stitches became "untied", and calling his office, I was told to use 'band-aids' to cover the opening, a gaping wound that I can still visualize, 25 years later.

A trip to the local ER put me in contact with a wonderful plastic surgeon, who had to 'tape' the wound, but promised to make it "all better" once it healed. 18 months later, I'm proud to say, he did. With reconstruction, scar revision, and release of my nipple, he made me look almost 'normal'. It was during that 18 month period, that my live in boyfriend walked out, telling me he couldn't take my "freakish appearance" anymore. 

I'd fought for my health, fought for my life, hid my lop sided appearance the best I could, but would not fight stupidity. As he left, I felt something new through the pain of heartbreak, I felt the strength that I had grown without even realizing it. I had beaten cancer. So, I had some scars, soon, I'd beat those too. I'd found something inside myself I might have never known....

I'm a survivor, I live, I love and I know deep inside what really matters everyday.

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Please read our first BCABBP Survivor's Story
From Darkness & Despair - Doris' Story

DRL's original post about the fabulous BCABBP

For more information please email Michael Colanero at

Photos used with permission of Michael D.Colanero & UNCOMMON GALLERY.
All Rights Reserved


  1. Baby you couldn't be more right! Beautiful story Ellen! and you my friend are beautiful inside and out......xoxoxox

  2. Good for you that you didn't give up. Also good you let that dope go. He couldn't stand the freakish appearance.... give me a break!!! That moron did you a favor. You wouldn't want to waste your time on him.
    Glad you're still here to share your story. The artwork looks great!

  3. I always say .. Follow your gut instinct !! And things happen for a reason !! Lucky you getting rid of the guy .. you could have wasted so much time of your life on him!!

  4. Thank you Doris, I just had to "tell it like it was"...xoxoxo

  5. There's a lot to be said about a woman's intuition!

  6. Tony,
    So great to hear a man's opinion! It did take a bit to realize the favor he did me, but he did help make me a stronger woman....Thank you for appreciating the artwork, the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project that I'm part of, is to promote hope, and awareness, and is full of strong survivors like myself.

  7. Jennifer,
    I have never doubted my 'instinct' since! That "gut feeling" we get is there for good reason. Thanks for reading my story.

  8. Grace,
    Couldn't have said it better! Thanks for reading my story.

  9. Truth, strength, hope and courage! Always, listen to that voice in your heart!!! Ellen, your story is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing it. What AWESOME accomplishment it is to foster HOPE and BEAUTY from darkness and despair. KUDOS to all of you who are part of this fabulous project!

    Dawn & I are honored to help give survivors & the BCABPP an additional voice. XOXOX

  10. Just read your story again Ellen......your intuition and persistence saved your life and what a lesson for all of absolute favorite part is when you say that a survivor knows what really matters. So very shapes the rest of your life......thank you for sharing your story :D

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are an inspiration! As some of the comments left have said you are beautiful inside and out. The world is a better place because of people like you....xo

  12. ellen, amazing! Really a story of advocation too!! Reading your story reminds me of how ignored I was from multiple docs and how long it took to get a doc who would listen. You have a beautiful soul!