In 2002, Erin Arbabha-Presutti was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. In the days, weeks, months, and years following her diagnosis, she underwent several life-changing surgeries and endured intensive treatment.
Although 19 years have passed, the impact of the diagnosis is lasting. She now uses her experience and story to help others and wrote a book titled, I Have Survived.
Erin recently moved to Quincy with her husband, Quincy Medical Group (QMG) Family Practice Physician, Dr. Cristian J. Presutti. She hopes to make an impact in her new community.
Her journey began back in August of 2001 when she felt some breast pain. She was due for her annual mammogram in February 2002, so decided to wait for her check-up to bring up her concerns to her physician.
“When I went for my routine mammogram, they found a spot and followed up with an ultrasound. They thought that it was 95 percent likely to be a calcification. Nothing to worry about, but they still wanted to do a biopsy.”
The results of her two biopsies found cancer that had spread throughout her left breast and lymph nodes. She sought a second opinion at Mayo Clinic, where they confirmed her diagnosis and immediately performed a double mastectomy. She went back to Florida, where she was living at the time, to complete six months of aggressive chemotherapy followed by multiple reconstructive surgeries over a span of several years.
Her diagnosis and treatment not only affected her physically but also impacted her emotionally and spiritually. She was working full time and was balancing the demands of her busy career, along with the weight of a cancer diagnosis.
Throughout it all, she received an abundance of support from her family, friends, and employer. She also sought out books for guidance but was unable to find one that she could relate to. That’s when she decided to write her own.
“I was single at the time, and I was living alone. It was very challenging to have to deal with something like this. I learned a lot and I wanted to share the lessons with everyone, not just with patients.”
Her book includes sections for doctors, employers, friends, family, and caregivers. The book is insightful, informative, and inspirational. It tells of not only the pain, loss and suffering of cancer, but also of ways to cope and positive life changes.
“The book is like a diary of my experience.”
Prior to her diagnosis, Erin was an active supporter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The cause has been one close to her heart.
“I’ve always been active with the Komen Foundation because my father’s sister died from breast cancer when she was only 40 years old. I always did fundraising in her honor,” she shared. “After my diagnosis, I continued to do more fundraising because I wanted to give back.”.
Erin was named one of the top fundraisers in South Florida for the Komen Foundation and was named an honorary chair, representing her company, Florida Power and Light. Her book was endorsed by Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Komen Foundation and sister of the late Susan G. Komen. Erin has also been involved with fundraising for the American Cancer Society and the United Way.
“I Have Survived,” Erin adds,” is for anyone who has been touched by cancer. Just about everybody knows someone who has or has had cancer, so this book is for everyone. It’s about caregiving. It’s about compassion.”
Erin has also been trained as a life coach through the University of Miami. She hopes she can help support patients and caregivers in her new community.
“By sharing my story and helping others, it’s very healing and rejuvenating for me. I feel like I’m giving back and making a difference.”
I Have Survived is available on Amazon and is now available at the Quincy University Library.