Michalena Kalaitsides has devoted her life to her Greek Orthodox faith, her family and friends who need her.
“I’m blessed,” she says, more than once.
At one point, Kalaitsides tried to keep her breast cancer diagnosis a secret, to keep from worrying those she loves, but today she’s telling anyone who will listen to get a mammogram.
“All of you ladies, please go and have it done,” she says.
After a lifetime of robust health, the 79-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother crossed paths with cancer shortly before the holidays in 2017.
“I hadn’t had a mammogram, ever,” she said, adding that she dismissed suggestions by her doctor to have them. “I was blessed. I’ve been healthy all these years.”
One day in late 2017, a bruise-like sore spot appeared that became a lump, but Kalaitsides said she initially thought it was from lifting something.
“I didn’t say anything,” she recalled. “The holidays were coming, and I didn’t want to worry my kids.”
She waited until her regular doctor’s appointment in March to see about it.
A subsequent mammography delivered an unexpected result.
“The ball started rolling right then,” she recalled. “I’d been so blessed that whatever God had in store for me was fine. I’ve always tried to help other people so, whatever happens, happens.”
Kalaitsides underwent a lumpectomy on April 29.
“I told Dr. (Gregory) Boone that ‘You’re a servant of God, you’re in his hands,’ ” she said. “I was very lucky.”
A laughing Kalaitsides said her children found out she had cancer after nagging her to see her doctor about her aching knee, and she blurted out that she would, as she was already going to have the lump checked.
After surgery, she opted for 16 high-dose treatments of radiation.
“With God’s will, I’m cancer-free,” she said.
A lifelong Cantonian, Kalaitsides praised the staff at Mercy.
“I can’t say enough about them,” she said. “From the registration desk, to the nurses, to the technicians, every one of them. I can’t say enough for the whole crew. How do you name all of them?”
Kalaitsides recommend women listen to their doctors—and to their own intuition.
“Listen to your body. Don’t be afraid,” she said. “The fear will pass. God helps those who help themselves.”