Claire Di Cenzo remembers the unfortunate milestone vividly. It was June 2, 2014 at 10:30 p.m. That’s when her doctor called to inform her the lump she found on her breast was malignant. She was 29 years old.
“It threw me into shock. The first couple of days were so nerve wracking. You don’t know what to think,” Di Cenzo said recalling her initial reaction to her diagnosis.
She had surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Di Cenzo, a first grade teacher, continued to work throughout her treatment – bringing schoolwork to complete while receiving chemotherapy and scheduled radiation treatments during her lunch hours.
“I didn’t want something else to dictate what to do in my life,” Di Cenzo said. “I wanted to have my normalcy.”
The faculty and staff at her Connecticut elementary school were incredibly supportive. Her students wrote her encouraging notes and have since started a fundraiser to support cancer patients in their local area. Some created comfort bags for cancer patients that they delivered to area hospitals.
“They were so cute. And it helped me as well,” she said.
Today Di Cenzo is in remission. She continues to share her story both in-person and on her blog hoping it will shed light on the importance of breast cancer research.
“I want to know why I was the one that got it,” Di Cenzo says pointing to her age, healthy lifestyle and no family history of the disease. “I don’t fit the mold at all.”
Di Cenzo says she has learned tremendously from her experience. She likes to pay it forward whenever she can – whether it’s buying coffees for the cars at her local drive-through or by sharing her story.
“Now I feel fearless. I have been through treatment – that was my biggest fear before this,” she said. “I want to travel more, take more risks and realize I have to make the most of each day.”
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