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Agatha (Marge) Cuce

Denial, Treatment, Cancer-Free

Holy Name Cancer Patient stories - Agatha (Marge) Cuce

All cancer patients' journeys are different – what they go through and just as importantly, how they navigate the path. For Agatha Cuce, she realizes now she went into a bit of denial.

Agatha, then 44, and the mother of two children, knew she had a lump in her breast that was cancer. At the same time, a voice in the back of her head kept saying it was only a lump and she just needed to get through treatment to get rid of it.

'I knew the lump was there but I just didn't want to believe it was cancer,' said Agatha, known to family and friends as Marge. 'I pushed that thought out of my head until afterward, when it hit me really hard. After surgery, I thought, 'Oh my God, I just had cancer,' and then I had some anxiety and depression for a little while.'

Finding Agatha's breast cancer was almost a fluke. She had not been feeling well – she was lethargic and had gained some weight. She had a uterine fibroid and thought it might be growing. But one day she also had a sharp pain in her breast and she felt a lump. She had to find out what was wrong.

Her gynecologist couldn't feel the lump in Agatha's breast so she didn't order a mammogram but did prescribe an MRI to investigate the fibroid. Though her doctor wasn't affiliated with Holy Name, Agatha headed there for the imaging.

'The technician doing the MRI at Holy Name saved my life,' Agatha said. 'His imaging picked up the breast tumor and he flagged it for the doctor.'

This time, her physician ordered a mammogram so she went back to Holy Name. The results showed she needed a biopsy; it looked like cancer. It was then that she had to decide what hospital to go to for further tests and treatment. She said that at one she couldn't even get anyone to speak to her on the phone.

'At Holy Name, everyone made me feel so comfortable,' Agatha said. 'They got me right in for a biopsy. And when you get here – you're nervous and crying but the nurses and technicians were so great. They did such a great job calming me down.'

Agatha had stage 2 breast cancer and her treatment plan called for chemotherapy to shrink her tumor before having a lumpectomy. Dr. Raimonda Goldman, a medical oncologist at Holy Name, was in charge of Agatha's chemo regimen.

'I can't say enough about Dr. Goldman's bedside manner,' Agatha said. 'The attention she gives you is unbelievable – she checks on you every week before chemo. One time during treatment my blood pressure shot up to 200 and she immediately called in a cardiologist, who did an echocardiogram right away. You just feel very safe and well-cared for at Holy Name. I am thankful for Dr. Goldman – a great doctor and human being.'

Agatha experienced many of the symptoms other chemo patients endure – upset stomach, body aches, no appetite. She also had to be very careful not to be exposed to sick people.

'It was hard with the kids – they were very strong and helped me a lot,' Agatha said. 'But they couldn't be near me if I was sick. They wanted to go to the beach, the movies and the arcade but we couldn't go because there were too many people – it was rough for a while.'

Still, Agatha said the key to getting through treatment is to be positive and stay strong. Okay, maybe a little denial about what is really going on too, worked for her. She also credits the love and support she got from family and friends.

'You make the best of it – the only food I could keep down were bread, rice and other carbs,' she said laughing. 'So I gained 30 lbs. but it's starting to come off now.'

Agatha also credits the other Holy Name physicians and staff with helping her get through her treatment. Dr. Erika Brinkmann, Director of Breast Surgery, performed a lumpectomy after chemotherapy to be sure the area where the tumor was located was free of cancer cells.

'Dr. Brinkmann was so optimistic and caring, she really made me believe I was going to be okay,' Agatha said. 'I still can't believe that I went to the doctor for a fibroid and found out I had breast cancer!

'But I just went for my mammogram yesterday and two years after diagnosis, I'm cancer free. I would refer anyone I meet who has cancer to go to Holy Name. The care there is amazing.'

Learn more about Breast Cancer treatment at Holy Name