BRAvo 2018 dancer profile: Diana and Dr. Lata

diana and dr lata in a heart

Diana and Dr. Lata

Diana could not afford to be overwhelmed, so she made the commitment to focus on only what she could control and the rest she would put in the trust of her doctors.

"I couldn't control the diagnosis or the illness," Diana said, "but if I could get control over how I approached my treatment, that would be how I could work through things and how I could attack it."

It was in late September 2015 that Diana felt a lump in her armpit while in the shower. She didn't think too much of it. She felt a little tired but that had not been out of the ordinary for the second grade teacher.

Days later, she now felt the lump in her left breast.

Diana went to the emergency room, where she had an ultrasound of the lump. It was determined to be solid (not fluid-filled) and this was the first time she heard the word "cancer."

"Breast cancer didn't run in my family," she said. "I was totally caught off-guard."

Over the next week, Diana had a mammogram, MRI and biopsy. All confirmed that it was breast cancer. It was October 14. The whole ordeal was such a whirlwind, moving so fast.

"It was Breast Cancer Awareness Month "“ I was reminded of it everywhere," she said. "It just stares at you right in the face. Your world comes to a halt. Work, everything else was put on the back burner."

She saw a breast surgeon who determined that her cancer had already advanced to stage 3. Diana didn't exactly know what stage 3 entailed, but knew that it wasn't good.

She chose an oncologist from the Karmanos Cancer Institute and after meetings with the doctor and her breast surgeon, she kept hearing about what her treatment plan would entail "“ a mastectomy and the removal of her lymph nodes, followed by rounds of chemo and a second mastectomy, then radiation and reconstructive surgery.

She couldn't help but to feel overwhelmed "“ the next year of her life would be seemingly endless doctors' appointments and procedures, all the while not knowing how it would turn out.

But from the beginning she resolved to stay strong for those around her. She would not let herself become overwhelmed.

"I had to look at it a different way and start to control whatever I could," Diana said. "It started to look overwhelming so I started to look at it in chunks. I had to get through this piece, then the next piece and then the next piece."

She put her trust in her oncologist, who worked with her and communicated his plan with her. Together, they would beat her cancer, "He said beating cancer is about making smart, timely and calculated decisions."

Following her October diagnosis, she began chemo in early November, followed by a mastectomy and surgery to remove her lymph nodes. Next came regular radiation therapy treatments until July 2016. Allowing herself time to heal, she underwent a second mastectomy in January 2017 along with a series of reconstructive surgeries.

Her ordeal had lasted more than 18 months, but she made it intact. She is cancer free.

And she had plenty of support. Diana often spoke with her young students, who offered their teacher love and encouragement. And friends and family pulled together to make sure Diana would never have to go through a treatment alone.

One of those by her side was Dr. Julie Lata, an emergency medicine physician at McLaren Macomb and a lifelong friend of Diana's.

"Diana has been a life-long inspiration," Dr. Lata said. "I've never seen her without a smile on her face "“ even during her diagnosis."

Dr. Lata was approached about being the first female "doc" to participate in BRAvo's "Dancing With Our Docs," a distinction she feels honored to have received.

"My first question, though, was "˜Could I pick my partner?' " asked the dancing novice. "Diana was the only one I would ask. She has already had such a positive effect on people."

Together, the friends have attended BRAvo for the past several years and are looking forward to their own performance, but have had a blast practicing along the way.

"Diana's already affected so many people in the most positive way," Dr. Lata said. "Now she can be an inspiration to a whole new audience."

BRAvo 2018
"Don't Gamble on the Girls"
5 p.m. Tues., Oct. 16
The Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township
Get your tickets and donate to your favorite dancing pair at mclaren.org/bravo.