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Wanda Maldonado

Beating a Rare Cancer

Holy Name Cancer Center - Wanda Maldonado

It started with a small lump. Just three months later, Wanda Maldonado had a 6-pound tumor removed, saving her life.

Wanda first felt the lump when she rolled over in bed. She had been lifting boxes at work and thought nothing of it – maybe it was just a pulled muscle.

A few days later, it was the size of a tennis ball. She thought it could be a cyst or a hernia. After two weeks, the lump had grown so large someone asked if she was pregnant.

Worried that the lump was growing so quickly, Wanda scheduled an appointment with an OB/GYN at Holy Name, and was seen right away. Her doctor knew specialized tests were needed and recommended Dr. Maria Schiavone, an expert gynecologic oncologist at Holy Name Cancer Care.

"The recommendation that I see an oncologist made me nervous," Wanda remembers. "It never occurred to me that I could have cancer."

Dr. Schiavone led Wanda through a series of tests and confirmed the unthinkable – Wanda had stage 1C clear cell carcinoma of the ovaries, a rare type of ovarian cancer.

"Wanda’s type of cancer is rare, but Holy Name has the expertise needed to treat her," Dr. Schiavone said. "She is strong and came through it all determined to advocate for ovarian cancer patients."

Wanda said Dr. Schiavone doesn’t take enough credit for her successful treatment.

"Dr. Schiavone is so knowledgeable and amazing – it turned out to be a serious operation and I was told it was all-hands on deck," Wanda said. "They performed a 6-hour surgery that saved my life."

Wanda had been lucky, typically symptoms for this disease are vague – bloating, feeling full quickly when eating, and constipation. A mass is not usually detected so early. It later became a life lesson that Wanda hopes all women will hear – pay attention to your body and see a professional when you have any type of symptom.

"It was a huge punch when I woke up and found out it was cancer," Wanda said. "I felt like a dead man walking and just prayed that I would be alive longer to spend many more years with my 16- and 30-year-old sons."

After recuperating from surgery, Wanda faced six rounds of chemotherapy. She admits it was very difficult, so excruciating that she couldn’t even find the strength to pray. But the support she received from family, friends and co-workers carried her through, and today she is in remission.

"The people in the Holy Name Cancer Center, I just want to hug each and every one of them," Wanda said. "The care they give is unbelievable – always making sure you’re not in pain, as comfortable as possible. They really know how to make a scary and difficult time much better than I could have ever imagined."

Learn more about the Holy Name Gynecologic Oncology