My baby saved me from cancer

 

Exclusive: Eleven month old baby Alberto Coda is the "cheeky monkey" who saved his mother's life by helping her discover she had breast cancer.

When he was just six months old, Alberto stopped breast feeding prompting his mum Angelica Quatela to visit her doctor.

The 31-year-old was concerned about developing mastitis because of possible breast milk lumps but the discovery that she had breast cancer left her in shock - and changed her life.

"He's a very special boy because he saved his mum's life, he seemed to know there was something going on with the right breast," Dr Quatela told News Corp.

"If I had left it six more months, I might not have as good a chance as I do now and I'm going to spend as much quality time with him and my husband as I can while I face this disease."

Dr Quatela's tumour, which was growing directly behind her right nipple, is thought to have interfered with the flow of breast milk, which was why her son stopped feeding.

While some of her distant relatives had breast and ovarian cancer, the mum, from Newcastle, north of Sydney, said tests showed she did not carry the BRCA gene mutations implicated in some breast cancers.

Dr Quatela with her son Alberto Coda at Merewether Surfhouse. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Dr Quatela with her son Alberto Coda at Merewether Surfhouse. Picture: Sam Ruttyn


Aged just 31 at the time of her diagnosis, she said she had never expected to get cancer so young.

She is now an ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and supports its push to raise awareness and deliver zero breast cancer deaths by 2030

"My advice to other news mums is don't forget about yourself and your health - stay in check with your body even when you have babies, so you know when something is different, and you can get it checked out immediately," she said.

Dr Quatela completed her PhD at the University of Newcastle and is a Practice Manager in a hospital imaging department.

She is four months into chemotherapy treatment, after having surgery to remove her cancer in December. Her last session falls on her son's first birthday later this month.

After that, she will endure four to five weeks of daily radiotherapy followed by hormone therapy to prevent her breast cancer from reoccurring.

Angelica Quatela with husband Andrea Coda and son Alberto Coda at Merewether Surfhouse. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Angelica Quatela with husband Andrea Coda and son Alberto Coda at Merewether Surfhouse. Picture: Sam Ruttyn


A close group of friends have helped her deal with the health crisis as COVID-19 restrictions prevented her family in Italy from coming to Australia.

The aggressive treatment leaves her tired but she gets to the gym as much as possible and tries to have a positive mindset.

"It's been a hard journey, especially having a little one, it's hard to rest when you want to rest with a small boy that is getting to the stage that he doesn't sleep much during the day," she said.

The exhaustion means Dr Quatela's first ever Mother's Day will be a low key affair.

Angelica Quatela with husband Andrea Coda and son Alberto Coda at Merewether Surfhouse. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Angelica Quatela with husband Andrea Coda and son Alberto Coda at Merewether Surfhouse. Picture: Sam Ruttyn


"We will probably just go for a walk with the baby if it is a sunny day, take a few pictures with the baby so we could have a good memory of that day and maybe, maybe eating out if we feel like it," she said.

Dr Quatela praised the fantastic medical care she received and her husband Andrea Coda.

"I am very grateful for him helping me every single day through this difficult time by helping me stay happy, positive, and active," she said.

Originally published as My baby saved me from cancer



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