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Won't Back Down

As we prepare to close out 2021, we are excited to introduce Vincenza “Enza” Minervini and Annette Tardi, representing November and December, respectively.

Both women have honored us by sharing their stories of inspiration and we can’t wait to share them with you.

Enza’s journey began with a mammogram, which was prompted by two of her closest female confidants receiving breast cancer diagnoses just months apart.

Something within her signaled her to book a mammogram, and this instinct was right. The screening led to a stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis.

Though in its earliest stages, and having an option of a lumpectomy, Enza decided to undergo a double mastectomy to better her chances of ridding her body of cancer altogether.

Although her children were adults, Enza struggled telling them the news. But with their support, and the rest of her family, Enza progressed on her journey — a series of appointments that included three surgeries and five weeks of radiation — and was not spared any snags.

Her first surgery, for instance, was expected to be five hours at most but due to a complication in locating a portion of the cancer, the surgery lasted eight hours. A meticulous process, Enza recalls the doctors describing the point of concern.

“The area in question was the size of the head of a sewing needle,” she said.

Fortunately, the surgery turned into a success as did the following two surgeries, and the rest of her treatment. Today, she is a five-year survivor.

“There are still days that I look at myself and can’t believe what I went through, but with faith, strength, and the support of family, I was strong and dedicated enough to face the challenge,” she said. “I feel great!”

Annette’s journey began a bit differently. At 35, with a toddler and a baby on the way, Annette felt a lump in her breast. Concerned, she went for an ultrasound but was told it was just normal breast changes due to pregnancy and to follow up six months later. However, unfortunately, like Enza, Annette’s instincts were right, too.

By the time of her follow-up appointment six months later, she was now close to her due date, approaching the start of her maternity leave. During a time of joy awaiting the arrival of her son, Annette received a breast cancer diagnosis three weeks before giving birth.

“I was completely broken but by the grace of God I fell into all of the best doctors’ hands along the way,” she said.

Three weeks after delivering her son, Annette went back into the hospital for a double mastectomy. Next, she endured 37 radiation treatments and three phases of reconstruction surgery.

“Battling breast cancer while caring for my children was so physically and emotionally draining at times, but I didn’t want anything I was going through to affect them,” she said. “They were my reason for pushing through all of the unpleasant parts of my journey. They got me through and they were the greatest distraction.”

Together with her children, Annette remains grateful to her doctors, husband, mother, and the rest of her family for their support.

“Always remember it’s OK to fall apart, just don't get stuck there,” she said. “Pick yourself up, put yourself back together, and keep it moving! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep going, you got this!”

Before we sign off for the year, Eye of the Survivor sends everyone the warmest holiday wishes! Keep merry, keep warm, and always keep your Eye on Strength!

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