Healthy Living

Father and Daughter Diagnosed with Breast Cancer "Comfort Each Other"

Father and Daughter Diagnosed with Breast Cancer "Comfort Each Other"

Father and Daughter Diagnosed with Breast Cancer "Comfort Each Other"

Vanessa Silva and her father, Arnaldo Silva, had always had a special bond, enjoying lunch dates and weekend visits even after Vanessa had moved out on her own to raise her family. She shared several common interests, but one thing that the father and daughter never expected to share was a breast cancer diagnosis.

In 2007, Arnaldo noticed a lump just beneath his right nipple and he decided to get it checked out. The doctor informed him that it was just fatty tissue and nothing to be worried about. However, as months went by, the lump grew larger and Arnaldo’s daughter convinced him to seek out a second opinion. At the second doctor, Arnaldo underwent a mammogram and had a biopsy done. When his test results came back, the doctor informed Arnaldo that he had stage 2 breast cancer. Arnaldo’s initial reaction was that the test results were wrong, as breast cancer was considered ‘a woman’s disease’. “As a man, it’s the last thing that you expect to hear you have when you go to the doctor, but I’m proof that it happens. This year alone, 3,000 men will be diagnosed and 400 will die, which I find unacceptable,” he said.

Urging his children to undergo testing

Arnaldo learned that he was a carrier of the BRCA2 gene and he urged his children to undergo testing to reveal any genetic predispositions to certain cancers. Vanessa and his younger brother, Arnaldo III, both underwent genetic testing and their results came back positive for the BRCA2 gene. However, for Vanessa, who also underwent a mammogram, the abnormal results revealed that she had breast cancer as well.

Vanessa and her father underwent treatment together, comforting and supporting one another along their journeys with breast cancer. During the entire course, Vanessa would lean on her father because he was the only one who really understood what she was going through and he was very straightforward with her. “There were times where I said, ‘I know why you’re calling me, listen, your fingernails are gonna start turning black, don’t worry, it’s the chemo.’ I felt like I was giving you a heads up,” said Arnaldo to his daughter.

Vanessa's second--and third--diagnosis

In 2014, Vanessa was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time around and a third time around in 2016, only this time in a different breast. She revealed that her diagnoses affected her not only physically, but mentally as well. “I did everything I was supposed to do; I did the chemo,” she said. Arnaldo’s sister and five of his paternal aunts had passed away from breast cancer. He stated that he feels guilty for passing down the gene to his daughter and possibly even to his grandchildren. However, Vanessa stressed that if it were not for his diagnosis and his efforts, she might not be here today. “You saved my life. I’m here today because of you. So that’s what I want you to walk away with. I’m blessed to have a dad like you,” said Vanessa to her father. 

Read on to learn more about Vanessa and Arnaldo's story.

Photo: NPR