At 33-years-young, married, raising two children under the age of five and working as a personal chef, Angela Martinucci, was in the shower when she noticed a lump under her arm. With no genetic predisposition, Angela’s life took an unexpected turn when doctors diagnosed her with stage 3 breast cancer. Along her journey, Angela experienced many debilitating side effects -- from anxiety and depression to insomnia and the all-famous "chemo brain." But always the fighter willing to try something new, and in an attempt to heal her own emotional trauma, Angela discovered NeurOptimal neurofeedback – a modality that not only helped her emerge from the "dark hole" of cancer, it redefined her career and purpose as she knew it.
In 2013 Angela started her own neurofeedback practice in the Bay Area, Mind Balance, as well as co-founded, NeuroNap Performance, a corporate brain training and wellness program. Both companies are inspired by the profound benefits she experienced personally and her desire to give back in a meaningful way. Now 6 years cancer free, Angela soon hopes to offer treatment to underserved communities throughout California. To read more about Angela’s road to recovery, who made up her cancer tribe and how her passion evolved, read our interview below.
Name: Angela Martinucci
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Current Health Status: No evidence of disease
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed at 33 with no family history, negative for genes and at stage 3, invasive ductal carcinoma.
What were your first thoughts when you were diagnosed?
I was in complete shock and frozen in fear that I would leave my young children behind.
How did your friends and family take the news?
They were, of course, shocked but extremely supportive. They jumped right in and took care of the kids and me.
Describe your treatment and how you arrived at that course of action.
I had bilateral mastectomy, and 6 months of chemo, radiation and tamoxifen.
Were you able to work through treatment?
No, I was a personal chef at the time and I was way too nauseous and weak to cook for people.
Where and how did you find the best care?
I was at Kaiser at the time and I did not find the care to be supportive there. I ended up finding my support in the team at Smith Integrative Oncology – the dietician, massage therapist and acupuncturist were my lifeline. The oncologist was also super supportive, even though I couldn’t have him as my primary doctor.
Did you receive any additional support or alternative therapies?
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs were extremely helpful for counteracting some of the side effects of chemo. After all of my treatments were over, I fell into a black hole of depression, anxiety, chemo brain and insomnia. I tried all kinds of antidepressants and pharmaceuticals, but they all made me feel worse. My aunt introduced me to NeurOptimal neurofeedback. I started training on the system and all of my symptoms seamlessly resolved. I was serving on the board of directors for a young survivor group, BAYS at the time, and I was on a retreat with other young survivors and I realized that they were all struggling with the same post-treatment collateral damage that I had prior to the neurofeedback. That was when I decided to get trained to provide neurofeedback to others, so that I could support other young survivors.
What or who have been your biggest supports? Who makes up your cancer tribe?
I have the most amazing family and friends – they have been incredibly supportive. And my BAYS ladies are my cancer tribe – we have an incredible connection because of what we have been through.
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of the experience for you?
Certainly the emotional aspect. The fear of going through treatment and the emotional disaster that follows treatment. The physical challenge of going through chemo and surgeries were also really rough. I was violently ill with chemo.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you were diagnosed?
I wish I learned of BAYS sooner.
Is there a particular mantra or inspiration that helps you?
From the day I was diagnosed, I knew it happened to me for a reason. I was meant to go through that journey so that I could help others. I just kept thinking that there was a reason and some day it would be clear.
If you could offer a woman, who has been newly diagnosed, some words of wisdom for her journey, what would you tell her?
Surround yourself with supportive people who lift you up. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask for a second opinion if something doesn’t feel right.
What are you most proud of in your cancer journey?
I am proud of taking something negative and allowing it to empower me to help others.
How has breast cancer affected your outlook on life? On illness?
I don’t take anything for granted. I live every day like it is my last. If there is something I want to do, I do it. I spend every day in gratitude, and the more I have, the more things that show up that I am grateful for.
How have you changed?
I have changed a lot. I have a mission to help others and make as much of an impact as I can. I also have more passion and purpose than I ever have.