News, Announcements and Expert Commentary from Inova

Forging Ahead: Good attitude helped one woman defeat breast cancer

View the latest issue of inHealth (PDF) (October 2, 2013) Bessy Blanco’s triumph over breast cancer was due in large part to her positive outlook and the compassionate support she received at Inova Breast Care Center at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Having served as a prominent attorney in El Salvador, Blanco journeyed to the United States seven years ago with her daughter to care for her aging mother. After many wonderful years of living in this country, a cascade of events changed her life forever. First came the loss of her mother. Then Blanco lost employment, and last winter, she found out she had breast cancer. In the midst of her cancer treatment, Blanco faced her challenges head-on and became an advocate for victims of domestic violence, starting a new phase in her career.

“What’s unique and compelling about Ms. Blanco’s story is her amazing outlook,” says Costanza Cocilovo, MD, a breast surgeon at Inova Fairfax Hospital who treated Blanco. “She didn’t let anything stop her along the way.”

Compassionate Care
Prior to having a single mastectomy, Blanco received neoadjuvant chemotherapy to minimize the tumor. “We knew she would need a mastectomy but decided it would be helpful to shrink the tumor down prior to surgery,” says Dr. Cocilovo. “The other advantage to doing chemotherapy before surgery in patients where we know they will need the treatment and they will benefit from it, is it doesn’t delay the treatment.”

For Blanco, the support she received during her chemotherapy treatment was invaluable.

“The nurses at the Infusion Clinic are amazing,” she says. “I went there feeling anxious about the chemotherapy, but those women made me feel comfortable and confident. No matter how busy they were, they never stopped being so gentle, supportive and caring. I truly appreciate what those women did for me.”

Before Blanco’s surgery, Dr. Cocilovo thoroughly explained what the surgery would entail and went over the options for reconstruction. Blanco decided to have an expander placed during her surgery and will have a final reconstruction following her recovery.

“Everybody in the hospital, including Dr. Cocilovo, kept me calm and gave me confidence about the surgery,” says Blanco.

Returning home the day after her surgery, Blanco only needed pain medication for three days. That week she resumed her daily walks with her dog, and two weeks following her surgery, she went back to work. With the competent, compassionate care she had received throughout her cancer journey, challenges that seemed overwhelming became possible to overcome.

“I knew I was in good hands,” says Blanco. “It was amazing! I never knew I was going to go back to work so quickly.”

Supportive Community
A friendly, caring community is there to support and nurture women as they transition from breast cancer treatment to their daily activities.

“When a woman’s treatment is done and they’re not seeing doctors all the time, there are many resources to help them transition out of acute care and into living beyond the diagnosis,” says Lianne Tedesco, RN, breast care navigator at Inova Breast Care Center at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Here are two such resources:

  •  Life With Cancer. This free program offers education, information and support to help women face the emotional, physical and financial challenges ahead. Call 703.698.2526 or visit
  • Survivors Offering Support. This award-winning support group provides one-on- one mentoring for women transitioning to wellness. Call Pamela Crum, Coordinator, Survivors Offering Support, at 703.698.2532 or  Click to see all Inova breast cancer support groups.

# # #

Click to see more news and articles from Inova Fairfax Hospital in the Summer / Fall 2013 issue of INhealth magazine:  Read more arrow

Leave a Comment