Brenda Pasqua’s inspiring battle against breast cancer

Looking back on her battle versus stage 2/3 breast cancer


Brenda Pasqua

It was Sept. 2021 when Brenda Pasqua, part-time teacher and athletic trainer at Oak Park High School, received grave news. She was diagnosed with stage 2/3 breast cancer. Breast cancer is a type of cancer that mostly affects women and sees over 200,000 cases per year in the U.S. 

Breast cancer, if diagnosed early, is curable through various methods. The five-year relative survival rate according to WebMD is around 90%. As long as cancer does not spread to other parts of the body the survival rate will be relatively high. Despite that, the idea of having serious cancer is intimidating to most. 

“You get a lot of emotions mixed into one. Anytime you kind of hear that dreaded C-word. So to say cancer, your first kind of emotions go to, oh crap. Do I have my things kind of put in order? What, what happens if this is something that they can’t cure? And once you kind of get through that, a lot of other things go on,” Pasqua said.

The first step in the treatment process was to figure out the severity of the cancer and determine where it has spread.

“It was a matter of, I got very, very lucky. It didn’t spread anywhere. It was only located in the breast and I had very minimal lymph involved, which means I was walking away from this cancer-free,” Pasqua said.

Once the diagnosis was clear, a game plan was set for cancer treatment. 

“So for me, because there was no spread, the game plan became six rounds of chemo surgery, seven weeks of radiation,” Pasqua said.

During the process of chemo and radiation, Pasqua looked for a way of focusing some of her attention away from the daily stresses of her health. For her, that meant getting back to her work as an athletic trainer. 

“So there would be days I would come to zero period, run to Thousand Oaks to radiation on my  prep, come back and teach three and five periods and some days I’d even have doctors appointments in addition to after that,” Pasqua said.

Part of her motivation for getting back to work is that the job of an athletic trainer is not very replaceable. Being an athletic trainer requires various skills from a multitude of medical practices. 

“An athletic trainer is kind of a combination of a bunch of different medical professions put into one. So we do the prevention and care of athletic injuries. We take care of athletic injuries, we evaluate athletic injuries, we’re first responders. And then we also do a little bit of physical therapy of those injuries that we treat. Uh, we also bring kind of our own special little realm of taping and wrapping to the profession. So it’s really just a bunch of, like I said, many different medical professions kind of summed up,” Pasqua said. 

In total Pasqua ended up using 19 sick days throughout the school year out of the allotted 59. 

Another factor to consider during cancer treatment is the financial burden placed upon the patient. Even with health insurance, the costs of medications and treatment add up. 

“Battling cancer is not cheap. I’m going to tell you that right now you can have a great health insurance plan or not have a great health insurance plan. It’s expensive. It’s expensive from the medications, the surgery, the numerous specialists,” Pasqua said.

Lisa Bregar, teacher at Oak Park High School, started a GoFundMe in order to help aid the financial costs of cancer. If you would like to donate, the link is here. The proceeds will go to helping Pasqua cover the costs of her insurance and medications. 

On May 20, Pasqua underwent her final radiation treatment and is now officially cancer free. 

You can donate to many breast cancer foundations to help aid with research in preventing and curing this common cancer in women. Charities such as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation have 90% of the proceeds go to breast cancer research. Moving us one step closer to a world where breast cancer will no longer be a concern to countless women.