Tomasco lives life to the fullest with
husband Tom and sons Blake, age nine,
and Cole, age five. The magnificent
gardens surrounding their home are
compliments of Tom, who owns a landscape
At first, Desiree Tomasco didn’t take the lump she found in her breast
too seriously. She was a young mother nursing a newborn son, and her
Ob/Gyn believed the lump to be a swollen milk duct. It seemed to
disappear over time. When the lump became palpable again a year later,
Desiree’s Ob/Gyn became concerned. He immediately referred her to Dr.
Thomas Frazier at the Comprehensive
Breast Center at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Within a few days, Desiree had undergone a mammogram, an ultrasound and
a biopsy. Dr. Frazier confirmed Desiree’s worst fear—she had breast
cancer. She was only 32 years old; her son Blake just 18 months.
For the next three weeks, Desiree carefully researched her
options. She interviewed breast cancer survivors, created flow
charts measuring outcomes, and filled an entire binder with educational
information. Based on her newfound knowledge that lumpectomies show
a higher rate of recurrence, Desiree opted for Dr. Frazier to perform a
mastectomy, with immediate reconstruction.
Dr. Frazier removed the breast containing the three-centimeter tumor,
and three lymph nodes. The lymph nodes, tested during the surgical
procedure, were negative. Desiree was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast
Because of the size of her tumor and her age, chemotherapy was the next
step. Early on during her treatments, Desiree cut her long hair
into a bob. When her hair began falling out, her husband and son
accompanied her to the hairdresser. They watched as her head was
shaved. Desiree wanted Blake to understand “where mommy’s hair
Desiree endured 24 weeks of chemotherapy, with side effects she equates
to “a very bad case of morning sickness, without the positives of
knowing that a child is growing inside you.” She relied on her
strong spirituality, and her relationships with family and friends, to
cope. Then she says, “You need to recuperate and put it behind
Following treatment, Desiree found empowerment in “knowledge and
action.” She met with a nutritionist, changing her eating habits
from “a traditional American diet” to one rich in fruits, vegetables and
whole grains. She found fairly-priced organic foods, which now
comprise 60 percent of her diet. She researched the
supplements that were right for her.
Less than two years later, Desiree gave birth to her second son,
Cole. “I was truly blessed with a beautiful life,” she
says. “I had a wonderful husband and two wonderful children. I
was living the dream—very grateful for my life and for my health. I
lived every day like it was a gift, not taking even one day for
The Second Time Around
It was in the spring of 2007 that Desiree began not feeling
well. She was tired all the time, and was experiencing an ache
under her arm. She had been following through with her check-ups
every six months, and recently had a routine MRI at a facility outside
of Main Line Health. Her thought was, “It’s not cancer—this
couldn’t be happening again.” When she returned to the same
facility for a routine mammogram six months later, the doctor found
tucked in her file the results of her MRI report from the previous
December. The report said she had breast cancer. The news
never made it to Desiree, or to her doctor. She left that facility
and returned immediately to Main Line Health and Dr. Frazier.
“One of the things I love about Dr. Frazier is his kindness and
sensitivity every step of the way,” says Desiree. “There was never
a time I interacted with him or his staff that they did not act
completely concerned for me. I never felt like just another
patient, like I wasn’t 100 percent important to them. They
always made me feel like they would do anything for me. From every
nurse to the anesthesiologist, I had just a wonderful experience at Bryn
Desiree was diagnosed with Stage 2, estrogen-positive breast cancer in
her remaining breast. It was not a return of the first cancer—but a
new diagnosis. Once again, Dr. Frazier performed a mastectomy,
removing the other breast as well as the lymph nodes in Desiree’s arm.
She also had her ovaries removed, not wanting to again endure the
menopause that sets in during chemotherapy. This time around,
Desiree opted to receive all of her treatments at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
When her hair began to fall out, the entire family once again made the
journey to the hairdresser for the shaving ceremony. It was now
Desiree’s youngest son, Cole, who was two years old.
Desiree laughs as she tells of how her wig became the family pet. She
keeps photographs of both Blake and Cole at age two, running through the
house wearing mommy’s wig.
A New Lease on Life
Today, Blake is nine, Cole is five, and Desiree is one year out from
treatment. She and her husband Tom enjoy an incredibly active
lifestyle, vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains of New York as often
as possible where they kayak, swim, and enjoy long hikes.
“I live a totally normal life without any restrictions,” says
Desiree. While her day-to day routine has not changed, her outlook
on life has evolved significantly. “I’m now planning my life—five
years out, ten years out,” she explains. “I think about all of the
things I want to do to enrich my life moving forward.” Her “to do
list” includes a Scandinavian cruise, and a possible career change to
become an elementary school teacher.
“Desiree is someone who has been able to move beyond her breast cancer
and get back to focusing on her life,” says Dr. Frazier. “She’s
taken a couple of hard knocks, but she’s never let things bother her the
way they do a lot of breast cancer patients. She is a terrific role
model—she’s done what she needed to do, and now she’s enjoying life and
making the most of every day.”
While Desiree says her battles with cancer are now behind her, she looks
out for her health with proper nutrition and exercise, and she is
diligent about her check-up appointments. “I love coming to see Dr.
Frazier and everyone at Bryn Mawr. If you have to go through what I
went through, that is definitely the place to be.”
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