When bad things happen, you can get upset. Or you can try to make the “breast” of it.
That’s what Andy Sealy, 39, and Krysten Gentile, 37, decided to do after they were diagnosed in 2017 with stage IV breast cancer. Together, they’ve launched a podcast called Making the Breast of It.
It’s much needed, considering that although breast cancer is rare in women under 40, it tends to be aggressive at that age, according to the Young Survivors Coalition.
“I think that we wanted a platform to tell people, ‘It is important to do self breast exams.’ I didn’t do them monthly. I should have. It could have saved my life,” said Gentile, a mother of three young boys. “So, we’re trying to help people understand that those self-exams are really important. This is my soapbox.”
Sealy discovered her first lump during a breast self-exam in January 2017. Then she found another. At first, she thought it might be a problem with her implants. Doctors diagnosed her with cancer later that month.
Three days before undergoing a double mastectomy, the South Philly resident threw herself a “Ta-ta to My Tatas” party that was covered by The Inquirer. Months later, Sealy was shocked to learn that the cancer had spread to her spine and right hip, which meant it was stage IV.
Gentile, 37, of Garnet Valley, discovered a lump while putting on her bra back in May 2017 as she dressed for work. Because she had a 7-month-old son, her obstetrician-gynecologist initially suspected it was a clogged milk duct. Gentile got a referral to a surgeon and had a biopsy. Pregnant with her third son, she underwent a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. After giving birth, she endured 36 rounds of daily radiation. Originally, she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Then, last summer, she had back pain and doctors discovered that the cancer had metastasized to her spine, which meant stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
“The most common areas that it spreads to after it goes to your lymph nodes are bones, brains, liver, and lung,” said Sealy, who has quit her job as a sales rep for restaurant point-of-sale systems. “They’re keeping an eye on something on a lung for [Gentile] and a liver for me. I had a spot on my sternum. It could be anything.”
Sealy and Gentile, who both grew up in Delaware County, learned of each other’s health struggles through friends. When Gentile called Sealy in June, their connection was instant. They had so much to talk about and compare.
I met up with the pair last week at Sealy’s rowhouse in South Philly. Gentile took the day off from her job at SAP in Newtown for the interview. The two women were bubbly and lively. You wouldn’t have thought either was ill.
There were subtle reminders, though.
“I’m hot-flashing from my medications. I apologize,” Gentile said, removing her leather jacket.
Sealy, sitting at the other end of the sofa and puffing on medicinal marijuana, called out: “Girl, bye. Trust me. I get it.”
Their energy is positive.
Making the Breast of It launched Sept. 29. They had a party to celebrate at Barra Rossa Ristorante, 900 Walnut St.
“We want to use the platform to tell people that life is short. Live your life the way you want to live it. Stop caring about what other people think. Be you,” Gentile said. “I was worried about what other people thought. That’s out the window.”
Sealy chimed in, quoting the rapper Eminem: “You only get one shot.”
I applaud the way they’re handling things. They’re being open and trying to help others at a time when a lot of us would just shut down. As Gentile said, “We’re just a couple of girls with a terminal cancer diagnosis making the breast of it.”
Their podcast will inspire others to do the same.