Name: Ann Pietrangelo
Diagnosed At Age: 51
Status: Assumed to be cancer-free
Bio: Ann is a freelance writer and the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis. Wouldn’t you know it? The diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer came just as she was getting ready to publish her memoir about life with multiple sclerosis.
Ann and her husband Jim are partners in life and in work, spending virtually all their time together. Their philosophy is a simple one: Give back when you can and LIVE while you’re here.
When they’re not working or hanging out with their cat Smokey, Jim and Ann can be found strolling the neighborhood or exploring their adopted city of Williamsburg, Virginia. Their children and extended families are scattered throughout the country, so there’s almost always a trip on the calendar. Ann enjoys volunteering for such worthwhile organizations as Beyond Boobs! and the National MS Society. Jim and Ann are proud members of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and they’ve got the hard hats to prove it.
Ann is currently working on her second book, this one about how the couple continued to live, laugh, and love despite triple-negative breast cancer. She hopes book number three has a totally different theme.
“Where the road leads, for now, is a mystery. I’m just grateful to be on the road.” — Ann Pietrangelo
My reaction when I was first diagnosed: The phone call was no surprise. I’d gauged the reactions of doctors and technicians during the physical exam, the mammogram, the ultrasound, and the biopsy. I knew it was coming and I was never one of those “why me?” types. Still, it was surreal. There were no dramatics. We quietly braced for whatever would follow. Then we went out for ice cream because if you can’t go out for ice cream when you find out you have cancer, when can you?
How I’m feeling now: This October I turn 54 years old and celebrate the third anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. When it comes to triple-negative breast cancer, that’s a big deal! My multiple sclerosis is behaving and I feel better than I have in a decade. Sometimes I have to pinch myself as a reminder that my good fortune is not a dream. If you passed me on the street you’d never guess at my health history.
My inspirations: It sounds trite, but I am in awe of my children. I thought parents were supposed to inspire their children, but it turns out it can work the other way around, too. They’re strong and resilient and they constantly amaze me.
My support system: My husband and I live far from family and depend on each other a great deal. He saw me through years of multiple sclerosis-related disabilities and didn’t flinch when cancer came to call. He was by my side for all major doctor consultations and treatments and a partner in all decisions. He supported me without fail through a mastectomy, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and 35 radiation treatments over a ten-month period. He let the strength of our love lead the way and I’m forever grateful.
I’m proud of: That’s a tough one. I don’t take much credit for the good health I currently enjoy. I suppose I can be a bit proud that, as a couple, we held it together pretty well. When we arrived on the other side of cancer, we just kept on doing our thing.
I’m afraid of: In my family bloodline, I’m unaware of any incidence of cancer. My kids can’t say the same, and I truly hate that feeling.
I’ve learned: I’ve learned that when a bald-headed, skinny woman walks by, people feel the need to offer platitudes. It’s really not necessary.
My advice to new patients: Have a life. Don’t let cancer treatment prevent you from doing what you want to do, and if you can stick to some kind of routine, do so. It’ll keep you going. Don’t let physical changes mess with your head. Your femininity comes from your spirit, not from your body. You’re all woman.