June 24, 2022 by John Fernandez
At 43, She’s a Breast Cancer Survivor Thanks to Routine Screening and Dedicated Teams at Miami Cancer Institute
“I am strong, I am determined, I am happy.” This is how Aliette Arner, 43, mother of two, describes herself. The special-education teacher has a family history of breast cancer, and she fully understood that she could have been next – at any moment.
She presented for a routine screening mammogram and was subsequently diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She completed chemotherapy first, and then went on to have surgery at Miami Cancer Institute, where she took advantage of all services that the Institute’s Cancer Patient Support Center has to offer to be able to go back to her old self — prior to cancer.
Ms. Arner’s mother, grandmother and great aunt were all breast cancer survivors, even though they had undergone negative genetic testing. Ms. Arner had also tested negative. There are a number of defective genes that can cause breast cancer. Because of her family history, she has been getting breast screening studies since the age of 30.
(Watch now: Hear from breast cancer survivor, Aliette Arner, and Gladys Giron, M.D., a breast surgical oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute. Video by Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues.)
“I was due for some type of screening, whether it was my mammogram or my MRI, in February (2020) and I didn’t get to it until June (2020), so I was delayed about 4 months,” she recalls.
Ms. Arner was able to schedule a mammogram and later an ultrasound was recommended. “They came in to tell me that there were two spots that they had seen, and they told me they had to be biopsied,” she explained. The result was positive for breast cancer.
“When they first told me it was cancer, I think that … everyone kind of sees their life flash before their eyes … that type of a thing. I quickly stopped myself and said: Thinking that way is not going to get me anywhere. I have incredible examples of what it is to be a fighter and a warrior. And I knew I had to stay in a positive frame of mind,” she says, recalling the moment.
She scheduled an appointment at Miami Cancer Institute with Gladys Giron, M.D., a breast surgical oncologist.
“Aliette came right at the heart of our first surge (COVID-19) in 2020. She was extremely positive from the minute she walked in the door, that’s something I remember about her,” said Dr. Giron.
She adds that Ms. Arner probably stands out as the most positive patient she has ever treated.
“I have 100 percent confidence and faith in the entire team that has been put together for me at Miami Cancer Institute that has made this process truly a breeze,” says Ms. Arner.
The Full Treatment: Chemotherapy, Surgery and Radiation
Ms. Arner would undergo chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and radiation treatment. Dr. Giron explains that the multidisciplinary team at the Institute worked like participants in a relay race, handing off batons to the next team member – a reference to their specialized, yet collaborative, efforts.
“In (Ms. Arner’s) case, we started with Dr. Garrido (Sara Garrido, M.D.), who delivered her treatment,” said Dr. Giron. “Once she was done with the chemotherapy, the baton came over to me and to Dr. Salinas (Harry Salinas, M.D.). We performed her surgery and the reconstruction. From there it went over to Dr. Fagundes (Marcio Fagundes, M.D.), who directed her radiation treatment. All the while, we have everybody else who’s part of the team helping to coordinate each step.”
Ms. Arner said she is very grateful for this “support system.”
“People ask me all the time how I am doing, and I am great,” she says. “I am great because, as scary and as ugly as it’s been, I have had an incredible support system with my family, with my friends, with my colleagues and at Miami Cancer Institute.”
Ms. Arner emphasizes the importance of dedicating time to put oneself back together after cancer. “I had chemotherapy, I had a double mastectomy, I had radiation. All those things take a toll in your body.”
Cancer Patient Support Services
At her initial appointment, she was informed about Miami Cancer Institute’s Cancer Patient Support Center. She says it has become her home away from home. “You name it. I have taken advantage of everything the Cancer Support (Center) has to offer, and it is a gift to be able to utilize all of their services.”
Physical therapy helped her with her movement and range of motion which have been limited by radiation and double mastectomies. She also consulted with a nutritionist, an oncology trainer to help her regain strength, and received acupuncture with a specialist.
“I would have to say that one of the greatest things about Miami Cancer Institute is that everything is in their system, which makes everything so much more efficient and effective” says Ms. Arner.
“Having gotten my annual screening was a key factor in why I am sitting here today alive and well. Early detection is key. Being able to say I am cancer-free makes me feel like I am invincible, I am a warrior, I am a fighter, I am a survivor.”