This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Cheryl Granito, the amazing mom behind the Denville Moms, part of The Local Moms Network. She is a former Special Education teacher, a girl mom of three (Harper,10, Kayla, 5, and Ellie, 2), and a metastatic breast cancer warrior. We spoke to her about being dismissed by doctors before her diagnosis, advocating for herself (and now other woman), what she wants newly diagnosed women to know, what is helping her feel strong today, and more.
Can you share why you joined The Local Moms Network team?
I joined The Local Moms Network this past spring. A friend (who runs Morris Bernards Moms) recommended me. When she told me what an amazing group of local moms she was a part of, I knew it was for me. My town had just rallied for me after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. They made me the honoree for their annual Pink Witches Night, the Denville Police Department had helped us financially with a donation to my family, the Rotary Club had Santa stop by for my children, the schools had done fundraisers for me, Girl Scouts did a wrapping fundraiser, The Fire Department bought presents for my children… the list goes on and on. I was working in the elementary school in town and the amount of people that came out for me was beautiful. When The Local Moms Network came to me I was told by my oncologist it might not be a good idea to return to my teaching position. I was devastated and wanted a way to give back to a community that was so good to me. Being a part of the Denville Moms helps me give back to the small businesses that helped me so incredibly much and to the people of Denville. It’s a place where I can share my story and hopefully help someone not go through what I went through.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. Can you please share how you were first diagnosed?
In July of 2018 I felt a lump and went into my doctor; they told it was hormones. In October 2018, just recently pregnant with my third baby girl, Ellie, I brought it up again. I went in and they gave me another breast exam. They said this time it could be a milk duct.
Well, obviously it wasn’t, and by the time I was 7 months pregnant I started limping and was in a lot of pain. My OB sent me to a chiropractor who pressed his whole 200 lbs on what I now know was a 10 cm tumor. After I had Ellie the pain still didn’t go away. I went to an orthopedic specialist and was told it was tendinitis. I begged them for a MRI and that was when they saw it. I went to an orthopedic oncologist and he gave me a biopsy and told me it was stage IV breast cancer. By that time, it was everywhere—my breast, my hip, my lungs, my liver, my ribs, my sternum, femurs, skull. I remember one of my student’s father worked the bone scan. I could see the screen and it was lit up all over! I had a 7-month-old. I had a 9-year-old with special needs and a very sensitive and smart 3-year-old. I had just lost my amazing father who I was very close to. I didn’t know how I was going to keep it together! I hate thinking about those first couple months—they were so terrible.
I’m so sorry that you were dismissed and have had to go through this. What happened after your diagnosis?
I was in a lot of pain and my bones were ransacked with cancer. I actually started leaking calcium. I was in the waiting room of Memorial Sloan Kettering and I had to be walked in by a man going in himself as my husband parked the car. I was given a wheelchair and was throwing up in a bag from the calcium in my system. They took one look at me and my blood work and sent me back to the hospital where I was admitted and stayed for 15 days. They started me on the chemotherapy drug Taxiol (every week for three weeks, 1 week off) and Zometa for my bones. I was also put on a ton of pain medicine. I was so doped up but still had excruciating pain. I also started radiation on the tumor on my hip. I couldn’t walk—I was a fall risk. They had to transport me in my hospital bed to radiation. I only graduated to a wheelchair on the last two days.
Once the 3 rounds of Taxiol were done I was told that the cancer had stopped spreading and was stable. The hospital wanted to do 3 more rounds of Taxiol. That was when I went back to Memorial Sloan Kettering to hear what they had to say. They gave me the option of Ibrance which was a pill with minimal side effects. I decided to start seeing them and am so incredibly happy I did.
So that’s where I am now. I’m on a slightly different pill called Verzenio. It’s been a miracle pill. I got a physical therapist, I joined a gym, my bones have healed, I got a Peleton and I’m honestly stronger and healthier than ever before. My baby girl is now 2 1/2 and I’m running after her with no problem. I just got my tumor markers back yesterday and they continue to go down.
My most recent PET scan showed there was no evidence in my breast, lymph node, liver, and those in my bone have all decreased immensely. I feel awesome!
Amazing—what an inspiring story and so happy you’re feeling well. What would you tell any moms who are recently diagnosed?
Today is the first day of your comeback! You need to get back stronger and healthier than ever before. Start with your mental health; it’s ok to grieve. Find someone to talk to. Meditate, talk and tune in to your spiritual side. Then focus on physical health, and start slow. The cancer had spread to my bones so I made a goal to walk to the stop sign on our street, then around the block, now I’m riding the Peleton every day. Exercise helps so incredibly much when going through chemo and helps fight fatigue and ultimately those awful emotions you go through.
And what would you tell all women about early detection?
You are not too young! I hadn’t even had my first mammogram. If you feel something or know something is not right, advocate for yourself. Be persistent. You have this one life and it is yours so make sure you are in the most optimal health.
What got you through those tough times?
My family, friends, this community. I am so incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life. I still have tough times but my husband is an excellent sounding board. We’ve been through hell and back and I can’t imagine a more supportive partner. I feel very lucky.
What did you do in October to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month?
Last month I raised money for Metastatic Breast Cancer. October is not only breast cancer awareness month but also my birthday month and the month everything was coming to a head with my diagnosis—The month of October was an emotional roller coaster. I also sold T-shirts that say “Fight like a Mother” for all the mothers, mothers to be, or just those that need to fight like a mother. Those profits also went to Metastatic Breast Cancer.
My mission for October month was to raise funds for research and treatments for Metastatic Breast Cancer (stage IV). We must continue to stop the spread and prevention of breast cancer but we also must help those where it has spread so we can have more treatment options and live decades!
We love supporting local businesses. Can you please share your fave places in your area to:
Go to dinner as a family: Crabby’s
Have date night: The Station at Mountain Lakes
Favorite Take Out: Up Thai
Workout: Lakeland Hills YMCA
Get your hair done: DePasquals in Denville (I get hand sewn extensions since my hair thinned from chemo. Dolce is the best caring and compassionate. I honestly look forward to going and sitting for six hours just to hang and talk with her.)