HEADstrong’s Services Provide Avenue for Piti White’s Future Family

By: Jennifer Hoffman

Piti and her husband Ryan were in newlywed bliss, relishing their first six months of marriage. The couple had decided to move in with Ryan’s parents to save money so they could purchase their first house. 

Piti and Ryan’s eyes were on the future, enjoying their plans of buying a home and having children. That was all put on hold when Piti discovered a lump on her chest during a self examination. 

“It came out of nowhere. I was always afraid of it so I checked all the time,” she said. Within a week the couple’s life was flipped upside down. After visiting her gynecologist and receiving a mammogram, a biopsy confirmed her worst fear. The lump was breast cancer, stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. 

“It was fast. From there I went to Sloan and they talked through the process. They don’t even talk about your treatment until they get the lump out,” Piti recalled.

She underwent surgery in June to remove the lump. It was a success and upon first examination doctors believed that surgery was all she would need to be cancer free. They sent the tumor out for testing to see what the recurrence rate was. It scored low but not in a range where doctors felt comfortable, so Piti would have to endure chemotherapy and radiation to ensure the cancer didn’t come back. 

In August, Priti started chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York. For four months she underwent treatment; she lost her hair and lost her job, but she was determined to not lose herself to cancer. 

Michael Colleluori HEADstrong VP has known Piti’s husband Ryan since his days at Hofstra University, as Ryan’s bestfriend Tom Interlicchio was Michael’s teammate. Piti’s resiliency and positive attitude towards cancer was like HEADstrong Founder Nick Colleluori.

HEADstrong wanted to help. 

Piti received financial assistance through the Nick Colleluori Classic at Hofstra. In the middle of her treatment, this was a silver lining in a sea of uncertainty.

As most newlywed’s look to do, Piti and Ryan wanted to start a family, but cancer had said, “no not yet.” With the assistance from HEADstrong, the couple was able to freeze her embryo’s so that one day they can have children. “We got the money and thought this was the perfect opportunity to get the eggs. We were extremely lucky, I will always feel so blessed for HEADstrong,” she said. 

Piti wrapped up her chemo in January and then underwent 20 rounds of radiation. Every 4 weeks for the next 5-10 years she has to get maintenance shots, but for all intents and purposes she is cancer free. 

Just four weeks ago Piti put on her mask and travelled from Long Island to Memorial Sloan Kettering to get her medicine, and although it’s necessary for her health, she didn’t want to go. 

Being a cancer survivor in the normal world is hard, but in a COVID-19 world, it is even harder.

Piti was on the upswing, finally getting back to the gym gaining her physical strength back, getting extensions in her hair, and finally feeling like herself again. She’s already been through the ups and downs of cancer and now with coronavirus it’s like reliving her worst nightmare all over again. “It’s hard for a cancer survivor to pull yourself out of these moments. I had so much to look forward to (again), married and kids and a house and now you’re in this world of COVID-19 and we have no idea what our lives will look like going forward,” she said. 

For most American’s this is the first time in their life that they’re told not to go outside and do things–to live a normal life. For cancer patients and survivors alike, this is nothing new. Restrictions are put in place every day because their lives literally depend on it. 

“I feel bad because part of me is like, the rest of the world is now living what it’s like to be a cancer survivor. One minor thing will rob you of your health. You have no control over it. You can be as vigilant as you want to and you can still get sick. The level of uncertainty is unbearable,” Piti said.