Generations of Strength

By Isabella Bordonaro

Managing and Online Editor

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Three women of the same family represent the hard reality that breast cancer does not discriminate against generations.

Jane DiDonato, of Lower Burrell, was the beginning of the breast cancer journey for the DiDonato women.  The matriarch of the DiDonato family was born in November 12, 1932 and grew up in Ambridge. She married Frank DiDonato in 1954, and had three children; Frank Jr., Billy, and Gina. She worked as a secretary.

DiDonato began her fight against breast cancer in 1987, when she was diagnosed with an ER positive invasive ductal carcinoma. She went through chemotherapy, and had a mastectomy to remove the cancer and regain her health. Unfortunately, her first round of chemo was not successful, and the cancer metastasized in her lungs. She went through another round of chemo, but once again the efforts were not successful. After fighting for 5 long years, she lost her battle in 1992, at the age of 59.

DiDonato’s only daughter Gina Bordonaro, born December 10,1962, was not aware that her mother’s cancer was genetic. She had to face that reality when she, too was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Bordonaro grew up in Lower Burrell, and graduated from Burrell High School in 1980. After High School, she attended Pittsburgh Beauty Academy where she got her beauty license. She married Michael Bordonaro, of Tarentum, in 1983. Together, they had three daughters; Francesca, Isabella, and Sofia. Bordonaro was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in May of 2008. She had an estrogen positive invasive ductal carcinoma.

Bordonaro went through several tests after her initial diagnosis, and it was decided that her best plan of action would be to have a double bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. She also decided to go through 4 rounds of chemotherapy, to ensure that her cancer would have an even lesser chance of returning. She had her surgery in July of 2008, and chemo shortly after.

“My motivation through diagnosis and treatment was 1.) To be an example for my daughters on how to handle a bump in the road,” said Bordonaro, “and 2.) To keep riding my bike.”

Bordonaro is an avid cyclist, doing many recreational rides around the New Kensington/Pittsburgh area. She does several rides for charities, like the MS 150, every year. She used those two motivating factors to keep going through chemo, and fighting this disease.

“She never showed a sign of even being sick,” states her youngest daughter Sofia. “I was young at the time, and she continued to care for me and my sisters, while also working. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the strength she showed was really amazing and inspiring.”

After finishing chemo and fully recovering from her surgery, Bordonaro decided to have her ovaries removed, since high levels of estrogen can lead to a reoccurrence of the cancer. She had the ovary removal surgery in December of 2009, and her catch phrase at the time was that she was going to be, “all fine in ’09.”

It has now been almost nine years since Bordonaro was diagnosed, and she is healthy as ever. She continues to ride her bike, and care for her family and dogs. She can be found riding around New Kensington, probably listening to Hamilton.

Having lived through the disease and seeing how many other women are affected by it, she stated that, “the sisterhood that exists of women who have been diagnosed with this disease is amazing. It has affected to many lives, and it is truly wonderful to see how women can come together and support each other through these hard times.”

After finding out that her cancer was genetic, Bordonaro knew that it would affect not only her now, but her daughters as well. Her eldest daughter, Francesca Traini, was the first to be tested for the gene. Traini was born on February 17, 1988. She grew up in New Kensington, and graduated from Valley High School in 2006. She went to Penn State New Kensington, and graduated with a business degree in marketing and management in 2010. She works as an Assistant Controller at Troy Allan Buick. She married Joe Traini in 2014.

When Traini turned 21, she went to her doctors to get tested to see if she carried the gene. The results came back positive, but according to Francesca, the doctors were very reassuring and told her that all she really needed to do was to begin getting yearly mammograms when she turned 25, so that if anything occurred, they could catch it quickly.

Traini went for her first mammogram when she turned 25. She recalls being very nervous about it, and when they finished, the doctors came back saying they had already found something. “The doctor took forever to come back into the room to discuss the results,” recalls Traini, “which made the wait even harder, because I had no idea what to expect.”

The results came back negative for any sign of cancer, but after realizing how long the process was of getting the mammogram, and realizing the fact that this would be her reality every 6 months, Traini decided to have a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction. Doing this has cut her chances of getting breast cancer immensely, and now she only has to have an MRI every year to make sure everything is ok, and that her implants are still good.

Today, Traini is healthy and happy, living in Dover, Delaware with her husband and two dogs  Frank and Valentine.

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