Corey Calligano is a true Cranston daughter. A graduate of the former Horton Elementary School, Bain Middle School and Cranston East Class of 2000, she has roots deep and strong in the community.
In September of 2012 while in the shower she found a lump in her left breast.
“I called the doctor the next day,” she said. “I was only 30 years old, this is not happening, I thought. I have three kids.”
At the time, the children were eight, six and one years old.
She was sent for the first course of tests – mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy.
“All the tests were done in two days. When my doctor called and said ‘I need to talk to you’, I knew exactly what they were going to say,” Calligano said.
From there she went to the oncologist, a surgeon and a radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital.
“I had 16 chemo treatments over five months,” she said. “I lost my hair, I was so sick. My last chemo was in February of 2013.”
In April she underwent a lumpectomy to remove the lymph nodes under her left arm. As a result of the procedure she now has a condition called Lymphedema.
“I started my radiation treatments in June of 2013. For 33 days straight I went for treatment,” she said.
Corey thanks her mother, Jan Calligano (a teacher in the Cranston school district), and her older sister, Beth, with all the help and support they gave.
“They were there with me all the time. Beth was like a second Mom to my kids. I am so grateful for all their help,” she said.
She was then put on Hercepton, which is in the chemo classification, but not the same side effects. She had to go once every three weeks for one year for treatment through her port.
“I had the port in my chest for al my infusions. I hated that port. It was like a golf ball living inside me. I couldn’t wait for it to come out, “ Corey said.
In January of 2014, after all those other treatments she was put on Tamoxifin, which is hormone therapy.
“There are some awful side effects to this, and I still was following up with doctors, testing, and everything else connected to the cancer,” Corey said.
Two years later, in October of 2016, she was diagnosed again with breast cancer during a mammogram.
“At this time, it was close to the holidays and I refused to deal with it. I was going to wait,” she said.
Corey spoke with all the doctors, and they asked what she wanted to do. She was still in her resolve.
“I am never going through this again. Take both of them,” she said.
From October to January, 2017 she was getting Lupron injections.
On January 30 she underwent a double mastectomy and did not have to have any chemo.
Corey was fitted with breast expanders for her upcoming reconstruction surgery. And right away, she noticed something was wrong with the right side drain, it wasn’t working properly.
“I got the phone call saying ‘we got all the cancer’. My family was celebrating, there was a cake saying “Mommy is cancer free’, but I simply didn’t feel well,” she said.
She wasn’t sure if she had overdone the celebrating, but she had a slight temperature.
“I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in blood, hundred and four degree temperature, I was lethargic. We eventually called the ambulance to take me to Rhode Island Hosptial,” she said.
Calligano was fearful she wouldn’t come back.
“I said to my Mom, ‘don’t let them forget me’. I was convinced this was it, this is the end, this is how I am going to die,” she said.
She ended up having an infection in the expander and had to have it removed.
“My self-esteem plummeted. I really didn’t like seeing myself,” she said.
In June of 2017, she was fitted with new expanders. In September, she had the expanders taken out and the implants put in.
“I had to take almost a year off from work. Even though I was so sick, the house had to be cleaned, life had to go on, and I tried to do everything I could,” Corey said.
The idea of writing a book has been in the back of her mind for a while.
“It started when I was first diagnosed. I was a wreck. Cancer doesn’t run in my family, I’m a healthy person,” Corey said.
Corey wanted to know everything. Get the answers to questions no one could answer for her.
“Cancer doesn’t care. This is not your grandmother’s breast cancer anymore,” she said.
Corey was convinced she was dying.
“I needed an outlet. I started a blog called ‘My pink ribbon journey’. I’ve always loved to write. It was my outlet, I knew it was good for me,” Corey said.
When she was diagnosed for the second time, she had even more questions.
“I knew there was someone else out there like me. I get very raw, very real in my book,” she said
Corey has a close relationship with the Gloria Gemma Foundation.
“I was in their calendar in 2014, I’ve walked in the fashion show, I carry a torch every year,” she said.
Corey thinks she might do a follow up book since she still has so much more to say.
“There is so much life after cancer. I truly think many people can benefit from my story. Not just women, but their caregivers and their families,” she said.
You can find Corey’s book ‘I’m Still Here’ on Amazon, Kindle and Nook. On Instagram, Imstillhere.cc.