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October 16, 2012

Survivor's recovery a sign of hope

Jill Moriello used to have long, black, curly hair — “beach bum hair,” she likes to call it. Hair that once hung to her waist and, in some ways, defined her as a person. Losing it was one of the hardest parts of the chemotherapy and radiation she received just weeks after she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.

Stares were the other hard part.

“Not the looks from strangers, I could handle those,” Moriello said. “But the stares from my family members — seeing their concern, that was hard.”

But Moriello is an optimist with a quick sense of humor. She’s the kind of woman who, even after she found a lump the “size of a Good & Plenty candy” on her left breast in August 2011, thought it was “no big deal.” At 37 years old, the Saugus-raised resident and 1997 graduate of Salem State University believed she was too young to have breast cancer.

Even so, she knew enough to call her doctor, who told her to come in right away. But with a 60-to-70-hour-a-week job as a development grants manager with financial responsibilities for her company, she was looking forward to a planned, and much-needed, vacation out of the country. She’d come in, she told the doctor, when she returned.

It’s a good thing she did. Moriello is proof positive of the need for early detection and expert care. Though her lump was obvious, the mammogram was inconclusive, and the doctor used ultrasound and a biopsy to determine whether it was cancerous. It was.

“A young woman who finds a mass in self-exams is not typical,” said Dr. Kristin Smith, a surgeon at the Beverly Hospital Breast Care Center who treated Moriello. “Usually this type of cancer is found in women in their 50s and 60s, so we have to take very seriously any situation like this.”

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