Raquel Camassa is cancer-free today because of yearly mammograms, and in her testimonial, she praises, “I beat cancer in 50 days; it can save your life.”

Diagnosed at 44 years old with stage-1 breast cancer on January 27, 2022, Raquel worried breast cancer treatment would be like when her mother Providencia went through treatment, and when her good friend passed from it.

Unbeknownst to Raquel, treatments, and medicine have changed remarkably from those days. Bittersweetly, her worries would soon turn to Survivor’s Guilt for evading the suffering her mother experienced, her friend, and the many other women who had it.

I’ve seen the side effects of what my mom went through… and my friend, so I had a lot of survivor’s guilt… it’s not that I didn’t suffer, but I didn’t suffer as I imagined I would have.

Best Kept Secret: The Margie Petersen Breast Center

“90 percent of breast cancer is not gene-related; it is age or environmentally related causes” remarks Dr. Janie Grumley, Breast Surgical Oncologist and Program Director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence, Saint John’s Health Center. Due to research, there are many tools to determine the right amount of treatment for each individual. The objective is “sizing” the treatment to fit the person.

Cancer isn’t a version of each individual disease; Cancer is a version of you.”

Dr. Grumley

The goal is for more women to experience Raquel’s “luck”, or rather, advances in medicine, from early screenings.

When Raquel found out she had breast cancer, she was set on a full mastectomy.

Listen to Raquel Recount Her Time and Experience at the Margie Petersen Breast Center

IORT and Oncoplastic Surgery

Because the cancer was found early, was HER2 negative, and was a single cancer, Raquel’s recommended treatment was a lumpectomy, and at the time of surgery, she received all her treatments. After the lymph nodes and surrounding area were tested for additional signs of cancer, She was given a single beam of radiation called Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) and Oncoplastic Surgery while still in the operating room.

IORT has certain requirements; must be over 45 years old, have an early stage, and HER2 negative; called an “old lady cancer” by Raquel in her testimony.

It was a blip in my life..

A Second Opinion

Not everything was as straightforward as her treatment, finding Raquel’s team of experts came from word of mouth. Originally, Raquel went to another hospital for treatment and decided to get a second opinion but didn’t know where to go. Serendipitously, Raquel’s kids go to soccer practice with none other than Dr. Janie Grumley, who is on Raquel’s speed dial just as Janie. Raquel had no idea Janie was even a doctor until her good friend told her, “You should go see ‘Janie’”.

Within two days after a phone call with Dr. Grumley, Raquel met her assembled team of experts at Saint John’s Health Center: Dr. Janie Grumley, surgeon, Dr. Parvin Peddi, medical oncologist, and Dr. Robert Wollman, radiologist.

I can’t believe [Dr. Grumley] made a horrible thing be easy..

By the end of her appointment, Raquel had a treatment plan and a surgery date. ‘You will have everything you need by the end of this appointment’ Raquel recalls Dr. Grumley telling her.

My life has gone back to regular, and I feel stronger than before because I know I can do this…Somedays, I forget I even had cancer.

Raquel Camassa and Dr. Janie Grumley

Young Cancer Survivors- A Margie Petersen Cancer Luncheon

In August of 2022, the Margie Petersen Breast Center invited Raquel to a luncheon where the main topic was, “Normalizing the Vagina.”

I left there beaming, and I was very timid to go. And now I want to go to all the events now! It’s nice to connect with others. Everyone’s story was different, and I thought that my story was not good enough, because it was a positive and good story. It’s exactly what you want, to come out on the other side and beat it..

The luncheon included an author, Dr. Sheryl Ross, who spoke about normalizing the changes women go through after breast cancer treatments. Topics ranged from vaginal dryness, discomfort during sex, and awkwardness in checking the vagina. Giveaways included vibrators and vaginal expanders! “It was awesome; no weirdness, just honesty,” Raquel writes in a follow-up message regarding the event.

It was the best thing I could’ve done. It doesn’t have to be suffering and sadness but empowering! They were happy to know I was cancer-free!.

One of the women Raquel connected with was Michaela Hernandez, another young breast cancer patient who was diagnosed with cancer last year, at the age of 33. To hear Michaela’s story, click here!

Providence, Saint John’s Health Center Goes Pink! 

pink building - breast cancer awareness - Margie Petersen Breast Center

To watch the building light up, on Friday, September 30th, there will be an Instagram LIVE event from 6:30 to 7:00 pm. Follow the Margie Petersen Breast Center Breasties Instagram @mpbcbreasties!

Hear from Dr. Grumley herself, CEO Michael Ricks, Exec. Dir. Stephanie Ayers, with a Q&A between Dr. Grumley and former patient.

About the Author

Eleanor Zeri