The Breast of Everything

Tina Craciun: young cancer survivor spreads hope to others

October 07, 2021 Comprehensive Breast Care Season 2 Episode 2
The Breast of Everything
Tina Craciun: young cancer survivor spreads hope to others
Show Notes Transcript

Tina Craciun, a 46-year-old wife, mother of two, and speech pathologist, recently added breast cancer survivor to her list of “accomplishments,” and gladly will share her story in hopes it will help other women who are just beginning their uphill battle with the disease.

“You will reach the top of that mountain, and the other side is so full of hope and relief,” she says during The Breast of Everything podcast.

Comprehensive Breast Care Surgeon Ashley Richardson, DO, FACOS, the podcast host and Tina’s surgeon, spoke with Tina about her cancer journey that began in November 2019 when, during her annual exam, a small lump was found in Tina’s right breast. 

She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

Her initial reaction was, “I don’t have time for this right now.” 

“Tina is a beacon of hope for other women facing a similar journey,” Dr. Richardson adds.

To hear Tina’s story – how she was able to maintain her normal daily routine, while remaining optimistic and in control of her life – listen to this The Breast of Everything podcast.

Announcer  0:01  
Welcome to the breast of everything podcast your trusted resource for breast health information support and encouragement. Your host today is Dr. Ashley Richardson of comprehensive breast care. Welcome.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  0:15  
Welcome to the breast of everything podcast. I'm Dr. Asher Richardson of comprehensive breast care. Today I'm extremely happy to introduce one of my patients Tina creasy. And Tina is a 46 year old cancer survivor wife and a mother of two children ages 10 and eight. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in November of 2019. Tina works as a speech language pathologist and she works within the medical field. While taking care of patients herself. She never thought she would be on the receiving end of a cancer treatment. She joins me today to share her story as well as her journey through chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and now survivorship. Tina, I can't tell you how. Happy to have you with me today.

Tina Craciun  0:56  
Oh, thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  0:58  
I know we have been on a journey since November of 2019. But how did this journey start? How did you first find out that you had breast cancer.

Tina Craciun  1:06  
So I went to my ob gyn for my annual exam. And Dr. Love escovitch found a small lump on my right breast. So he referred me initially for an MRI and when I called to schedule the appointment, it was going to take some time. So I actually had reached out to your office and asked for direction and we got to the resolution or a new game plan for a mammogram and an ultrasound a little more quickly.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  1:40  
When I remember the one of the first times I met you talked about that you are out running or walking and kind of had some pain or twinges on that right side. Do you remember that conversation?

Tina Craciun  1:49  
Yeah, I do on. So it was November when he found it. Once the weather started to get a little bit warmer, I was wearing a fleece outside. And when I would walk I would feel I couldn't figure out if it was in my arm. But I could feel something different as I was walking in my arm was moving?

Dr. Ashley Richardson  2:07  
Well, I think it's important. You know, I see a lot of patients for breast pain in general, and very rarely does a malignancy or breast cancer cause pain. And we'll tell them as the provider that paints often not a presenting symptom, but you know, your own body and something just felt off or different. Right?

Tina Craciun  2:23  
Exactly. It wasn't painful, it just felt different. I couldn't, there was just something rubbing or something pulling, I couldn't really tell exactly what it was. But there was definitely something different and I was causing me, you know, to look for, you know, reaching my arm out, you know, moving different ways.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  2:40  
And I think the important point that you brought up about your imaging was a breast tumor I was ordered initially first. But one of the first things that are standard of care that we always look for is a mammogram and an ultrasound. That's just the basis of our breast imaging that we start with. And then from there, if a breast MRI is warranted, we can utilize that technology as well. So after you had the mammogram in the ultrasound, it did show an abnormal lesion in the breast, and then you underwent a biopsy. Do you remember kind of how you were feeling when you first were told about your breast cancer?

Tina Craciun  3:11  
Oh gosh, I To be honest, you know, I did the mammogram, the ultrasound, they pulled me back in and did an ultrasound of the other side. Took some more images, I was there for quite a long time I knew something was going on. They told me I was going to have to come back for breast biopsy, working in the medical setting and knowing some of the physicians and people that work there, I asked if there was any way that we could do it that day. And they looked at the schedule and actually were able to get me in right then and there to do the biopsy. I was terrified, I really did feel like there was something wrong, kind of looking back and knowing that I felt something

Dr. Ashley Richardson  3:57  
I can hear in your voice the feelings that you felt just by your description and me knowing you so well you still get those feelings. And I think that's one of the things that's also unique with you from the very beginning is, you know, unique to you but also unique to a lot of patients in your situation at a young age with young kids, the devastating feeling of the unknown of the anxiety to come. And then obviously getting the diagnosis and knowing, you know, what do I do with this? And how, how am I going to get through this. I remember meeting you and your husband for the first time and you asked to do I'm a planner, I'm a scheduler, I'm Taipei I have my kids soccer games this weekend. And you know a lot of patients can resonate with that, that you have a life and cancer kind of gets in the way of your life. But you know, we're here to talk today a little bit about how you're still moving on with life, right?

Tina Craciun  4:43  
Yes, exactly. So yes, I remember that conversation like it was yesterday. And I remember exactly saying I did not have time for this right?

Dr. Ashley Richardson  4:50  
You did say that.

Tina Craciun  4:54  
So really what I had to do is you know all the paperwork you gave me it was like completely written down. The plan what to do and I really just had to sit down and look at it and decide how I was going to manage that and just move forward I mean it was really hard at times there are still times I still look back and think I just cannot believe that that all of that happened but you do you have to dig deep you just make it through one day at a time and you look for support where you you know can have it I had lots of support from my family a lot of support from work my friends and family are always there for me

Dr. Ashley Richardson  5:35  
well and I think you bring up a good point you know we can kind of laugh now but when we when I first met you there were a lot of tears and there has definitely been a lot of tears and there continue to be tears there

Tina Craciun  5:45  
continue to be a lot of tears

Dr. Ashley Richardson  5:47  
but one of the things that we talked about the first console was you having some control because when you get a new cancer diagnosis often you feel at a point of no control and that this is out of control and we sat together and we talked about like you said this is going to be our plan this is what we're going to do this is an uphill battle we're walking up the mountain but eventually we're going to be walking down the mountain and guess what now that mountains behind you right? Yes. And so we did talk we mentioned that you had a triple negative breast cancer so part of your journey started with chemotherapy Can you tell us a little bit about you know your emotions going into chemotherapy through chemotherapy

Tina Craciun  6:23  
um you know i'd really didn't know what to expect because you know I had heard you know, some people can work through chemotherapy I you know, read about fatigue, I talked to nurses that I work with, so I kind of was just wondering how it was gonna affect me overall, I think at first knowing that I had to do the first four AC treatments and then usually after the first two is when you start to lose your hair. So that was you know, something that I needed to be prepared for because working and you know, being active you know, with my children and their soccer games in school, I still wanted to be able to maintain doing that but still looking you know like myself

Dr. Ashley Richardson  7:00  
well and you happen to be working during COVID which you know, I use you as an example with so many of my new cancer patients when they say well how can I do this and work and a lot of the data and literature shows and you're living proof of that, that the more you maintain your normal routine, your normal daily activities, the kind of better you do through chemotherapy and I will reference you all the time with my patients who say Listen, I had a patient or have a patient that she wasn't working in the hospital setting during COVID and receiving chemotherapy. You know, I think you're a beacon of hope and a great role model for so many people that are going into chemotherapy and you did you worked all through COVID while receiving treatment and you did spectacular

Tina Craciun  7:44  
Yeah, I mean I definitely had my days and it was a struggle sometimes like some days I just wondered Should I stay home today but it really did give me you know a routine to wake up take a shower get you know still help the kids get ready continue on with my normal routine and on the days that I did do you know chemo just adjust a little bit

Dr. Ashley Richardson  8:02  
and then you are also able to get that support system at work which I think helps a lot to you know, to have different environments with different support systems you mentioned your family you mentioned your friends and then also your co workers

Tina Craciun  8:13  
Yeah, my co workers were unbelievable during this you know, I worked there for 21 years so you know you have lots of different relationships with people you know, I could count on them to laugh and count on them to you know, be there when I was crying or whenever I needed anything. So it really was helpful and I think that changes scenery also was very helpful for me to just get out of the house and then you're doing something different.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  8:38  
Well, and you had mentioned, you know, losing your hair. Now that's a big hurdle for a lot of our patients when we talk about chemotherapy, and with breast cancer chemotherapy, typically there is hair loss. And so one of the things with COVID especially within the hospital setting you were able to you know, we were mass and we had hats on and things like that so you could maintain some normalcy, but I also know you have a couple of wigs sharing stories I do.

Tina Craciun  9:02  
So when COVID hit on, we kind of you know all had to think out of the box and figure out you know what mass we were gonna wear how we were going to do it on what was the safest way to complete swallow emails and you know, still get the job done but also still be you know, safer, you know, ourselves and our families. So when that came up the mask, the 95 the way the hair ties go around you, I couldn't wear it with my wig because it would have pulled it up and just been a disaster. So I ran into my friends in radiology and said I need I need a scrub cap or I need something so of course they graciously volunteered some scrub caps for me to use until I could order my own. So at that point in time, I kind of put the wig away and just wear the scrub cap.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  9:52  
Yeah, we all did a lot of hiding throughout, you know, throughout COVID and, you know, it helps you the thing that you you know, as a patient That when you do lose your hair, it's an outward appearance to other folks that something is wrong, right? Yes. So you again lose that control because then others around you are wondering what's going on or recognize that you have some sort of illness, whatever that may be. And at least with wearing the scrub caps or the wigs, you were able to maintain some of your own normalcy and, you know, go on throughout treatment without other people knowing what was going on.

Tina Craciun  10:23  
It was very helpful. It just made me It made me less concerned about is it on the right way. Am I straight? I would always make sure I'm like, is it you know, tamed in the back?

Dr. Ashley Richardson  10:34  
And now you're growing? Yeah, yes. Yep. So after chemotherapy, you went on to surgery? Would you like to share with the listeners just kind of some of your journey through surgery and then on to radiation?

Tina Craciun  10:48  
Um, yeah, the schedule for a lumpectomy. And I was a little nervous about the needle that had to be inserted for the blue dye. But it was that procedure went well, that the surgery went everything was smooth. It didn't, I really was just ready to have that part of the journey be over. Yeah, it was kind of the final point of the chemo than the surgery. It was like a checkoff point,

Dr. Ashley Richardson  11:16  
right, kind of another step, another mark on the checklist, just to keep moving forward, up,

Tina Craciun  11:20  
keep moving forward, keep climbing the hill, get over the hump.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  11:24  
Yes, we've used that analogy a lot. And I think the thing now that we look at is we are over the hill. And one of my most favorite moments so far that I've shared with you is, we got to experience a Detroit Tigers game together, where car models put out an event for pink out the park for breast cancer patients and breast cancer survivors. And you were selected to get to throw the first pitch. That was

Tina Craciun  11:46  
an amazing experience. I was a little I was nervous, of course, I had kept my journey with breast cancer completely off social media. So I there was nothing posted, I kind of kept my journey to myself. And when that came out, my husband blew up Facebook, so it was fine. But at that point in time, I was ready to share my story and kind of get it out there and be able to be there for others and share my journey.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  12:16  
Well, and it with you throwing the first pitch, I got to catch it. And I would like to know it's on social media that she threw a great pitch. And I did catch it, in fact, also got to, you know, share that moment together and talk about how when we first met, you could not see that you would be able to be at that moment, but I knew you would be. And so it was kind of a come full circle. And like you said you hadn't really you were not able to really share your journey or help others and you told me that you felt like the Tigers game was really an opportunity for you to help others through what you went through.

Tina Craciun  12:47  
Yes, so I've had the opportunity, working at a hospital where there's mainly women that to reach out to others, that you know, I found out we're going through similar things are just starting on their journey. But I felt like at this point too, it really made me able to, you know, just be on work or in my comfort zone, like be able to, you know, talk about it, share it, and, you know, just be out there.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  13:10  
And all of those folks that were part of your support system, were at the Tigers game also. So I got to meet family and friends and kids and co workers. And again, that was probably therapeutic for them. Also, because they've been right there by your side, I know your husband was just, you know, glimmering with pride throughout the whole event, seeing kind of where you had been and what you've come through.

Tina Craciun  13:29  
Yeah, it was amazing. Just to you know, be there and have that support and to know that they were cheering me on the whole time and just to kind of stand in, you know, the moment of you know, to really feel like I finally reached the goal.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  13:45  
And so with that being said, talk a little bit about your day to day now. So you were diagnosed in November of 2019. We're approaching just about the two year mark outside of your diagnosis. So tell me a little bit about what your everyday your every month your every year looks like now,

Tina Craciun  14:00  
okay, so right now we're just home life wise, we're struggling through how busy the kids are in sports. So we're running all over by energy levels back. My aches and pains you know are gone. The effects from the chemo seem to be almost completely gone. My hair has grown back so I feel comfortable, you know, going out and not having to you know, struggle with what kind of hair do I want to have? work I'm still working full time. So I recently listened to one of your podcasts where Tammy was on there. She's a breast cancer survivor, and she teaches Pilates so I reached out to her and I recently began Pilates with her. Wow, how's

Dr. Ashley Richardson  14:43  
that going?

Tina Craciun  14:44  
It's going great. We've only got a few classes in so far but I really am enjoying it and it's something is an outlet for me. And you know I've wanted to start exercising and kind of you know, getting back into shape, but I just couldn't figure out something that valise To me, and then so once I saw that I reached out to her that night. And, you know, we've been talking ever since

Dr. Ashley Richardson  15:06  
I have goosebumps. And I have goosebumps. Because sometimes, you know, we record these podcasts and you wonder, does it reach people? Does it make a difference? Does it change anything in their life, and I obviously know you so while on a personal level to know that something we've done is helping you, especially something like that, because I think self care, and personal goals and physical activity and those kinds of things really help you identify with who you are and who you want to be. So I find that awesome. And I'm so happy and I'm so proud for you.

Tina Craciun  15:35  
Thank you.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  15:37  
With that being said to you know, you talk a lot about the future. And do you have an anxiety or concerns when you go for that annual mammogram now or the breast MRI?

Tina Craciun  15:49  
Oh, of course, every you know, every appointment, everything, you know, kind of brings as you're pulling into the parking lot, it does bring you back a little bit. But it has been getting easier.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  16:01  
Well, we joke all the time, that every time I see you cry, but now I now I hope they're happy tears, but it doesn't matter what I say you cry every time

Tina Craciun  16:10  
thing that I just brings, I think it just brings it all, it just brings it back to the surface, which I think is okay, because, you know, it's a journey, it's, you know, you know, a part of, you know, part of my life. And that's a part of my story now, so I'm okay with that. But I mean, it is still a struggle, because you just look back and think, wow, you know, I really wanted to hand you back that piece of paper. to somebody else,

Dr. Ashley Richardson  16:34  
I don't have time for this, give it to somebody else, right? But you're back at those soccer games, you're back on all the ball fields with your kids, you're working, you're doing Pilates and you're finding joy. And you know, and other things that may not have been a part of you had it not been for this

Tina Craciun  16:50  
exactly. You know, when I you know found friends that I did chemo with and did radiation with and another triple negative survivor that was on the same path, we were just like a week off that we still you know, keep in touch. So I've built some good relationships and have some good friends because of this.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  17:09  
And with you working in the hospital, has it changed your perspective of how you treat patients or relate to patient?

Tina Craciun  17:15  
Do you know what I always wanted it to be in the medical field, I originally went to school to be a nurse and then decided that wasn't the exact path I wanted to take. So I'm a speech pathologist. But I always, you know, thought I related to my patients, I could understand how devastating This must be for their families. But it really took it to a different level with us. So you know, every time something, you know, I walk into a room and see a family member or a patient, I really do take a step back and can really relate to how that makes you feel.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  17:46  
Are there any other messages that you'd like to share with our listeners about your experience or going through your breast cancer treatment,

Tina Craciun  17:53  
you know, listen to your medical team. And you know, honestly, you do get through the worst part of it, and then you do get over the hill and things do get better. And I'm always available if someone wants to reach out to me for support.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  18:12  
I think that's invaluable. Like you mentioned, you know, there's podcasts, there's blogs, there's survivorship groups, and you meet people through your journey. And they really do become people that you can talk with on a day to day because they understand the nitty gritty of what you're going through.

Tina Craciun  18:28  
Yeah, the nitty gritty is the difficult part. Because it's even hard to describe in words, you know, the different parts of it, everything that's involved in it. And as you're going through it, you know, everyone you know knows about it, but to feel it is a little bit different. So it is nice sometimes to talk to someone who has gone through it or is going through it.

Dr. Ashley Richardson  18:48  
Well, and we can laugh right now about, you know, the wig being in a little bit of the wrong direction. But at the end of the day, when you settle home at home that day with your husband, I'm sure there was emotions there that you weren't laughing at that time. You know, and those folks that you meet along the way they can understand that because they've been in that exact same position. Exactly. And I think you offering you know, to help those going forward is amazing, and just shows how far you've came. Oh, well, thank


No, thank you because truly, I mean, not just the podcast, but it has been a pleasure to be your surgeon throughout all of this and I am happy that you still cry with me every time and i i certainly don't take it personal. Not. Well. Thank you, Tina, so much for joining me today on the breast of everything. And thank you for having me. Thank you all for listening to the rest of everything. I am your host Dr. Ashley Richardson of comprehensive breast care. And as always, we want to hear from you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to talk about. Please we welcome your suggestions. You can send them to compress that's c o m p Thank you.

Announcer  19:57  
You've been listening to the best of everything podcasts. With your host and board certified breast surgeon, Dr. Ashley Richardson of comprehensive breast care. If you have a subject you would like the surgeons to discuss, please email your suggestions online at comp breast That's the doctors want to hear from you. The views thoughts and opinions shared in this podcast are intended for general education and informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice, treatment or care from your physician or healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider first.

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