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From COVID-19 to Cancer: A Warrior’s Story

By |2021-09-28T13:47:04-04:00September 28th, 2021|Categories: Cancer, Coronavirus|Tags: , , |

At age 46, Maria Reid of Millstone was hardly ever sick. In fact, she hadn’t taken a sick day in seven years—at least until early March 2020, when she began to feel awful. Her temperature rose to 103 degrees, and after a pneumonia diagnosis at urgent care, she was sent to CentraState’s Emergency Department.

The next thing she remembers is waking up after 21 days on a ventilator. She didn’t know where she was. She couldn’t walk or think clearly. And in addition to her own COVID-19 diagnosis, she was met with the news that she had lost several family members to COVID-19.

“I lost a month of my life and much more,” says Maria. “It was terrifying and truly unbelievable. Yet throughout the many hallucinations I had, I think I somehow knew that the healthcare team was saving my life.”

Maria was discharged in early April and underwent a long course of rehabilitation to regain her function. When she was finally feeling better, she recalled that her OB/GYN, Robert Portadin, MD, had given her a mammogram prescription before the pandemic began. She made an appointment at the Star and Barry Tobias Women’s Health Center at CentraState and had her first screening mammogram in August.


When the mammogram showed suspicious results, Maria underwent a series of imaging studies, including ultrasounds, an MRI, and biopsies of lesions in both breasts. With insight from the same radiologists who had monitored her lung results months earlier, tests confirmed cancer in her left breast.

“It was overwhelming,” says Maria. “The news came when I had finally gotten myself back together.”

Dr. Portadin referred her to John Pellegrino, MD, breast surgeon and medical director of CentraState’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program at the Women’s Health Center.

“It was astounding that Maria had just survived this terrible disease and was now facing another one,” says Dr. Pellegrino. “But she had an interdisciplinary team on her side throughout it all, and I was confident that we could get her through this next hurdle.”

Maria underwent a mastectomy performed by Dr. Pellegrino in late September, and plastic surgeon A.K. Bhattacharya, MD, placed an expander in her breast in preparation for reconstructive surgery. She was also under the care of oncologist Bhavesh Balar, MD, who determined that no chemotherapy or radiation was needed after the successful procedure. Maria had reconstructive surgery in January and has been focused on better days since then.


After an incredibly challenging year, Maria has decided to no longer allow life’s aggravations to weigh her down—instead, she chooses to be happy. She’s settling into a new home with her husband and 12-year-old daughter and is planning to move her two horses to the property. She also recognizes the importance of keeping up with regular healthcare appointments no matter what the circumstances.

“I’m a fighter, but no one is invincible,” says Maria, who is about to schedule her first colonoscopy. “You can’t let life get in the way of taking care of your health.”

For more information about cancer services at CentraState, visit or call 855-411-CANCER (855-411-2262).

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