Meet the Five

Adele Rivas

Diagnosed in July 2013 at age 34

July 11, 2013 — one of the best and worst days of my life. I was happily married, starting a new job and reproductively challenged. My husband Luis and I were trying to start a family despite two and a half years of countless negative pregnancy tests, the diagnosis of infertility from three doctors, and a lot of tears. Luis was the optimist, still hopeful we could do it on our own, and I was the realist exploring the process of adoption. I was scared to take any fertility drugs, given my mother’s history of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. We sold our apartment and were about to move in with my mother in New Jersey, with the intent to save money for a possible future adoption.

About two months earlier during my breast self exam, I noticed a large, long cord that felt like a rubber band in my left breast. I knew it hadn’t been there long because I perform regular self-exams given my family history of breast cancer. I thought it was a simple breast change with my menstrual cycle, but after a week, I realized it wasn’t changing or going away. Still, I wasn’t too worried since it wasn’t a lump, but I made an appointment to get a mammogram …


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Adele Rivas

Ali Schayne D'Angelo

Ali Schayne D'Angelo

Diagnosed in April 2013 at age 35

I can’t believe I am actually sitting here about to write my “breast cancer story”. It was always something I read about, or had pity for someone else. Not me… Of course, this could never happen to me. I was a healthy, 35 year old special education teacher with a 3 year old daughter, great husband and the perfect life.

I was in Marco Island for the weekend with my family. We were enjoying the perfect day on the beach…I had to lather myself with some sunscreen and that was the beginning of my journey. As I was putting on my SPF 50, I felt a little knot on the side of my boob…I told my husband and of course he told me “it was nothing”. I had always felt lumps and all sorts of stuff in my boobs, but this felt different. That night on the way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I would go and see my doctor tomorrow and he would tell me its nothing.

The next day, I called my doctor and got a 1:00 appointment. He felt my lump and told me that it is probably nothing, but just to be sure, he sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. Of course, my husband was with me. We …


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Elina Golbin

Diagnosed in July 2012 at age 28

I was diagnosed in July 2012, at 28 years old. It all started when I suddenly felt a lump in my left breast one morning. Through the insistence of my husband Jay, who is a lung doctor, I went to get a breast sonogram, which led to a needle biopsy. I’ll never forget that day that changed my life forever – July 9, 2012. It was a sunny Monday morning and I had anxiously been waiting for my biopsy results for over a week. I came into work and tried to pretend it was just a normal day. Around noon, Jay called the radiologist’s office for my results because I was just too nervous to make the phone call myself. I remember staring at the computer and trying to hold on to those final moments of normalcy, knowing that the next phone call I received could potentially change my life forever.

After what felt like an eternity, my phone rang. It was Jay. “Baby,” he said, as he tried to keep his voice from cracking “your test results were abnormal. You’re going to need surgery. I think you need to leave work and come home.” As I was driving home, I knew that it was time for me to speak to the doctor myself …


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Elina Golbin

Erica Byruch

Erica Byruch

Diagnosed in June 2013 at age 34

It was December 2012 when my best friend called me frantically that she felt a lump in her breast. I immediately told her to come pick me up and that I will go with her to the doctor. We were driving down 495 heading from NYC to Great Neck. I was trying to keep her calm. I was explaining everyone has lumps and bumps in their breast and I’m sure she’s going to be fine. I even went as far as digging in my own breast to prove it to her. Well to my surprise I found this tiny marble like thing in my right breast. It was so deep and tiny that I would have never felt it unless I was digging! We both kind of smiled at each other being that our lumps felt the same and reassured each other what are the odds of us both having breast cancer. When we arrived at her ob/gyn she had an ultrasound, which thank god turned out to be nothing. So excited my best friend was okay, I figured I was in the clear as well. A few months went by and my fiancé and I decided we wanted to try and get pregnant. I decided to go to my ob/gyn and just …


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Jennifer Finkelstein

Diagnosed in April 2005 at age 32

I am the founder of 5 Under 40. At age 32 two months before my wedding, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband, Dr. Robert Fafalak felt a lump in my breast. The next day I saw Dr. Nancy Elliot who did a needle biopsy. The biopsy was positive – I had breast cancer. I was a few weeks away from my wedding day which I had dreamed of all my life, and now I faced the most devastating and shocking diagnosis.
The location of my tumor (behind the nipple) was tricky. My MRI revealed there were 2 satellite tumors branching off the main one. Dr. Nancy Elliot’s recommendation was for single mastectomy. With my wedding date fast approaching, I chose to undergo a single mastectomy. I knew I needed to prepare for the fight of my life although I had no idea how to do it. Who would have predicted I would do it in a wedding dress? My breast surgeon, Dr. Alexander J. Swistel, even wore a tuxedo to perform my mastectomy. Hidden deep beneath the black ominous clouds of cancer, I held onto the excitement and happiness of my wedding. I invited the entire operating room as they were counting down my twilight sleep.
My family was a tremendous source of …


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Jennifer Finkelstein

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