Dayna's Pink Story
My name is Dayna Bottazzi Varano and I am a breast cancer survivor. My journey through diagnosis, treatment, and survival has been a lengthy and difficult one, but I’m grateful beyond words to be able to tell you my story. I also feel blessed to be able to do my best to make a difference within the cancer community, which is what brings us here today, but first I will tell you my story…
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma at age 39. My diagnosis came on, none other than, Valentine’s Day of 2007, some months after giving birth to my second child. With multiple positive lymph nodes, and an eight-centimeter tumor, they did their best to prepare me for what lied ahead. Treatment was to consist of a double mastectomy, the most aggressive form of chemotherapy there was, followed by radiation.
Oftentimes people will ask me if the day I was diagnosed with cancer was the worst day of my life. Unequivocally, it was not. However, witnessing the anguish on my mother’s face when the doctor had to give us the statistics of my survival surely was the lowest day of my life…a fifty percent chance of living five years. Five years? I just couldn’t fathom as my children were only one and four years old.
Two weeks later to the day, February 21st, I had a double mastectomy. This period of time becomes rather confusing as, unbeknownst to anyone, I had contracted a potentially fatal infection during my one-night stay in the hospital. I knew the agony I was in was not consistent with the procedure I just had. However, not a soul was listening. My immediate family, however, knowing very well that I had the pain threshold of a modern day Indian, knew something was seriously wrong. They elected to put me in the car and drive me to the oncologist who would be starting chemotherapy soon. After drawing my blood in the lab they immediately admitted me into the hospital. The cause of this horrific anguish was c.diff (clostridium difficile). This is where the majority of things became a blur. I was in the hospital for two weeks and, being higher than a hippy in a hot air balloon, I really wasn’t aware of what was happening, and that was just fine with me. My family, on the other hand, had the burden of dealing with everything else. There are only two medications to treat this infection and the first one had no effect on my body and clearly the panic was all around me. If the second medication didn’t work, I would be expected to succumb to the infection, but being as I’m telling you my story, well, you know…
The next issue was having a substantial delay in a Stage 3 cancer patient as I wasn’t healthy enough to begin treatment. Fortunately, the delay didn’t negatively impact the big picture and, after months of recovering from the infection, chemotherapy treatments began, consisting of Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol, Herceptin, and radiation therapy. Adriamycin left me with some heart damage but nothing that I physically noticed. It is a common side effect of both Adriamycin, as well as Herceptin.
During the multiple treatments I distracted myself by fundraising for various breast cancer organizations as well as doing public speaking. Shortly after treatments finished, I became an emergency point of contact person for newly diagnosed women in my area. I went to conferences and attended multiple educational forums to continue to educate myself in an effort to help others. I became a committee member and chair of fundraising for a wonderful organization, The Young Survival Coalition, in NYC.
As my health continued to get better, I found strength in things I hadn’t before. Just as I was starting to feel like my old self, I learned that I needed to have a tumor removed from my brain. The tumor could not be completely removed or I would have suffered vision loss. However, we continue to monitor the area and I’m happy to say there has not been any substantial regrowth through to this time.
It was during these times that many relationships and bonds with other survivors developed and impacted me in a multitude of ways. I couldn’t help but become aware of the financial burden that affected so many women and the heartache it caused them being unable to provide for their children. I had already had a foundation of my own that began four years prior to my diagnosis where I collected and distributed toys to underprivileged children. Learning more and more about the financial hardship some women were facing, and the impact it had on their families, I knew immediately that this was the direction my foundation needed to go in. In 2008 my foundation redeveloped into Dayna’s Pink Wishes.
Through the years I’ve sadly seen some horrors as well as modern day miracles. I’ve had to witness deaths beyond anything I was prepared for, women younger than I, women with better prognoses than I, and women who’ve passed as a result of the side effects from treatment and/or chemotherapy-induced diseases. My foundation helps me honor their bravery every single day and I will continue to do so for as long as I exist.
Dayna’s Pink Wishes has become my passion and purpose. I work for its expansion and growth in an effort to help as many people as I can. Through the generosity of everyone that I am blessed to have around me, its growth continues. The English language is completely devoid of words to define the level of gratitude and love that I have for every single person that has helped Dayna’s Pink Wishes develop into what it is today.
Thank you for taking your personal time to read my story.