DANVERS — As a nurse in the Medical and Day Surgery Center at Beverly Hospital at Danvers, Noreen Forlizzi can relate to the young women she sees in recovery who have undergone breast biopsies.
“It’s helpful, I think, for the patients. I like to tell them, when I talk to them, how young I was when I was diagnosed. I see that sigh of relief when I tell them that,” said Forlizzi, 57. “I wished I had someone to talk to who had had breast cancer at such a young age and who had survived. It would have made me feel a little less scared.”
Forlizzi, a Danvers resident, is celebrating her 25th year as a breast cancer survivor. When she was 32, she found a lump while doing a breast exam on herself. Then a registered nurse in the outpatient oncology ward at St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton, she was aware of what the discovery could mean. She made an appointment, and doctors determined the lump was cancer.
“Your first reaction when you hear that diagnosis is you’re going to die,” she said. “Being that young age, I didn’t have anyone I could relate to. I was so frightened for my children.”
With a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, she decided to undergo a bilateral, or double, mastectomy at St. Elizabeth’s.
“Being young, having two little ones at home, I wanted to live and I thought that would give me the best chance,” she said. “It was a difficult decision, but it was one I felt I could live with mentally and physically.”
Despite her fear, Forlizzi said it was a blessing to have had her children with her throughout her diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
“It really gave me a focus,” she said. “To keep my focus off having breast cancer and more on them.”