She’s a survivor, a caregiver and an advocate who’s started a radio show to share stories of hope and recovery. She fought through death (literally!) and depression.
Today, Malisa’s blog, Embracing Our Scars encourages women as they travel the ups and downs of breast cancer. She’s turned her “pain into purpose” and is “living the best of my life today.”
“I wasn’t expecting that diagnosis,” she recalls. “There was no history of breast cancer in my family. I always was the one who got her mammogram done, so when I got the news I was shocked and in disbelief. This was hard for my family and to everyone who knew and loved me. I was diagnosed in August 2015. I had a double mastectomy on October 19th, 2015, only to die a few hours after a successful surgery. Till this day the doctors do not know what have caused me to die, but thank God, I’m still here.”
As a patient herself, and a caregiver for loved ones who had cancer, Malisa understands the view from both sides of the sheet. “I have learned that when a person is sick all you can do is show them love and compassion by being of service to them. They need a lot of tender care. There were times when the person I was taking care of just wanted me to sit with them and not say anything. A caregiver must have patience!”
She fondly recalls one of the most surprising ways a friend helped during her own post-treatment bout with depression. Rather than spend weeks planning a visit from out of state, he waited to call until he was nearly to her house. “After he talked with me for a while, he made me get dressed and go out…I did not want to go because of how I was feeling about myself. Before treatment, I had always been very confident in how I looked. That was gone. I was not ready to go out in the world and allow people to see me without any breast. By the time we were halfway through our meal, I began to feel comfortable. That was the beginning of me moving out of my depression into embracing my scars and seeing myself as being a woman and still beautiful.”
Although caregiving and support often includes touching, heartwarming moments like that visit, Malisa also recognizes the reality of caregiving. “Sometimes, they are going to have bad days and they might take it out on you. When this happens, we must remember that it is not personal, it is not about us.”
Malisa shares her hard-won wisdom with others, “The best advice I received was to not allow what I had gone through to take over my life. My experience with breast cancer was that it could hold you hostage. You may feel like your life is over and that you are not a woman. That’s not true.” She urges the patients and survivors she counsels to remember “You have a life to live. Live like there’s no tomorrow.”
Need perspective? Looking for some encouragement through a tough diagnosis or into survivorship? Get matched with Malisa – or another Support Volunteer who has been where you are. Click HERE or call 877-HOPENET (877-467-3638) today.
Sarah Miretti Cassidy is the Director of Marketing & Patient Outreach for Cancer Hope Network.