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Strength and Resilience Through Cancer Diagnosis

Breast Cancer Awareness, Cancer, Human Interest

In January 2020, Kristy Montero had her first mammogram. When the results were negative, the now 45-year-old says she was relieved. But just a year and a half later, in July 2021, Montero felt something unfamiliar in her right breast. 

“It wasn’t quite a lump; more like a bruise or a knot that hadn’t been there before,” she says. “It wasn’t painful, but I checked again a few days later and it was still there.” 

Working through cancer treatment 

Montero soon had a mammogram, followed by two biopsies and an MRI to confirm that it was cancer. Because the cancer was aggressive — it was already in her lymph nodes — Montero’s care team recommended a double mastectomy, the removal of both of her breasts. By the time she had surgery in October, just three months after she found the lump, the tumor had grown significantly. 

Earlier this year, Montero had several rounds of chemotherapy, followed by radiation. But the credit union assistant manager wasn’t ready to give up her work. She continued to work full time through most of her treatment. 

“I took Fridays off during chemo to give myself the weekend to rest,” she says. “And I needed to take time off during radiation because I was going five days a week, so it wasn’t aligning with my work schedule.” 

Montero adds that her care team, including Khine Win, MD, was critical to helping her work through her treatment. “They have been so caring, understanding and thorough,” she says. “No matter how many questions I may have, Dr. Win always takes the time to answer them.” 

Looking to the future 

So, how did Montero find the strength to get through it all?  

“What really helped was just realizing I had no choice but to be positive and go with the flow,” she says. “I knew I couldn’t let it take me over; I had to push forward.” 

Montero is preparing for her next checkup with Dr. Win, but she has other plans as well: She’ll meet with a surgeon soon to discuss breast reconstruction, with a goal of having the operation by the end of the year. 

After that? 

“My sister has been like my right hand, with me at every appointment and every treatment,” she says. “We’re going to take a girls’ trip together and just go sit on a beach somewhere.” 

After all, Montero has earned some time off.