There are many questions that arise when a person is given a cancer diagnosis. From concerns about treatment outcomes to whether they will lose their hair, the unknowns seem endless. However, one thing is certain: they will forever be changed.
"I've seen a lot of patients transform through this process, and they come out a lot stronger in the end," says Dr. Phillip Zentner, medical director of radiation oncology at the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. "They can draw out that strength of the human spirit that they wouldn't otherwise know was there."
Maria Toscano agrees. Diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma — a cancer of the lymphatic system — Maria found a strength within to fight the cancer. Even the loss of her hair didn't weaken her. In fact, it emboldened her.
"I wore the baldness with honor," she says. "When you're a warrior, you hold your badge when going into a fight. It was my badge of honor so that people could see what I was going through and that I wasn't afraid of it."
Maria's positive mindset was bolstered by the excellent care she received at Sharp Chula Vista's cancer center. Equipped with the latest technology and treatments, a team of exceptional doctors, nurses, nutritionists and other experts all worked together to ensure she received the best possible care.
"We have a community — a medical community — that's taking care of the patient," Dr. Zentner says. "The team had to really work together to optimize chemotherapy and radiation therapy to give Maria the best chance for a cure."
Dr. Kenneth Johnson, a board-certified hematologist and oncologist affiliated with the cancer center, was one of the first to meet with Maria after she received her diagnosis.
"I tell patients that we're here for you," he says. "I'm here to serve you and get you through a very tough time."
Dr. Zentner acknowledges that fighting cancer can take a lot out of a patient, but stresses that the team works to ensure that patients are comfortable and feel seen and heard as individuals. "Cancer can take whatever it is you give it, but there are a lot of things it can't take, like your dignity."
"To me, this whole thing was a blessing," says Maria. "I took a lot more out of it than what it took out of me."
Watch the video above to see more of Maria's story.