Three-time Breast Cancer Survivor (video link at end)
Olga Dais, 65, is a mom, a grandmother, and an attorney. She is active in her church and in several organizations. Born and raised in New York City, she and her husband currently live in the heart of Harlem.
Olga is a three-time breast cancer survivor, her journey spanning more than half of her life. At age 33, she was prompted to make an appointment with her doctor after her mom came to her in a dream. Long-story short, she felt something wasn’t quite right. Sure enough, a mammogram revealed early-stage breast cancer. She underwent radiation and surgery, followed by chemotherapy.
Olga’s father was an orphan, so she wasn’t aware of any family history. But at age 53, 20 years after the first diagnosis, the cancer returned in the same breast. Her doctors then suggested genetic testing, and she learned that there was likely a trend on her father’s side. The genetic test also indicated she is positive for the BRCA gene.
BRCA is an abbreviation for “BReast CAncer gene,” and has been found to impact a person's chances of developing breast cancer. Considering this, her doctor recommended a double mastectomy to reduce the chances of a recurrence as much as possible.
Surprisingly though, the cancer returned a third time, in the same breast even though she no longer had breasts. Her doctors were shocked – thinking it may have been a mistake. But one doctor explained that one vulnerable spot can hold cancer cells in the spot where the breast was.
This time Olga had proton therapy (targeted radiation,) which was experimental at the time – it was approved and considered successful for prostate cancer – but it wasn’t typically covered by insurance for breast cancer.
Since then, Olga has been cancer free, but considering she’s 2.5 (almost triple) negative, she’s monitored closely for recurrences. Olga’s sister passed from pancreatic cancer so Olga signed up for a medical study in case there is a link that could make her vulnerable.
Olga has advice for women facing a similar diagnosis – especially women of color.
“Get tested. Get several opinions and do your own research. Take advantage of genetic testing. Learn your family history. Be careful not to get caught up on the physical psychology of it. Women should concentrate on getting well first.”
Olga considers herself a strong person – she says she’s resilient and can handle things that many people may not be able to. She’s incredibly grateful for her village of friends and family.
“I had girlfriends travel from far and near – including The Hamptons and Chicago – to drive me to my appointments and sit with me during my treatments. Others delivered food and gift cards to restaurants. It meant the world to me. Overall, I’m really fortunate.”
Click here to watch Olga share her story.