Amy Pettenato has been in a fierce fight with breast cancer and was spending quality time with her husband Mike and daughter Angelina, on Sunday at the Metropolis Diner in Medford, when something amazing happened.
Pettenato took to Facebook to share what happened, “Next to us is a family. Mom, dad, and four girls. At times I noticed one of the daughters looking at me and then noticed the mom looking and smiling at me,” she wrote. “As you can see, I have my cancer hat on.”
On the previous Thursday, Pettenato had shaved her head bald as she was losing hair in clumps. “Throughout my whole journey, I’d stayed positive, but that made me depressed,” she said.
So when she saw the young girl looking at her, she thought it was due to her hair. “I got sad, and teared up; I went into self-conscious mode about my hair. It was the first time I’d been out since I’d shaved my head.” The moment of truth came when before leaving, the mom came and sat next to Pettenato and spoke to her about life as a 13-year breast cancer survivor. “We talked for a bit and she wished me luck with everything I’m going through and reminded me to stay positive,” Pettenato said.
After Pettenato’s family finished eating, the waitress told them that the kind family had paid their breakfast bill. “The same woman who took five minutes out of her time to sit and comfort me and share her experience,” Pettenato said. “With that I began to cry.”
She knew that the family was from Sachem as they were wearing Sachem shirts. “I thanked her for sitting and sharing her story but never knew how to thank her for paying our bill. Maybe somehow this can be shared and who knows? Maybe it can reach them somehow,” she wrote on Facebook.
The story became viral on social media and garnered 1.2K shares, it was also shared in a local Sachem moms’ group and the two women, Pettenato and the woman who’d reached out, Kerry Holmes-Vallario, were re-connected and became Facebook friends.
Holmes-Vallario said, “When I saw her I knew exactly what she was feeling — I remember the day my husband shaved my head; it was the hardest day of my life. When I saw her sitting there I just wanted her to know that she isn’t alone in her fight and that ‘we’ as warriors are all here for each other. On my journey I had met so many women who became friends from this disease and I wanted to just reach out to Amy and let her know I was there for her.”
Meanwhile Pettenato who is on treatment said she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in May, and had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Now in the third week home recovering, her kidneys have stopped functioning and she is having dialysis along with chemotherapy treatment.
She has returned back to work full-time at Bethpage Federal Credit Union, interspersed with chemo and dialysis. And so Sunday and a lazy breakfast at the diner was such a rare treat.
Calling her a “pink sister,” Holmes-Vallario discussed her years of treatment; Pettenato said she has seven weekly treatments left before the chemo will be reduced to once every three weeks — and then, in October, she will start searching for a liver and kidney transplant. “I’m excited to get chemo done,” Pettenato said. “I beat this one and now I’m ready to beat the next one.”
Inspired by her spirit, Holmes-Vallario told Pettenato that she was inspired by her positivity. “Being positive is so important,” Pettenato said. She was inspired by her act of kindness towards her and said. “That was an angel, sent here to let me know, ‘We’ve got you,'” she said.
When Pettenato sent back the check to add a slice of cheesecake, she was shocked when the waitress never brought the bill to the table again. “She said, ‘There is no bill. It was taken care of.’ And my husband said it was that woman that had just sat down. I started to cry. It just made my day. It was meant to be.”
Holmes-Vallario immediately wrote Pettenato saying, they were “bonded as pink sisters” and she’d paid it forward because she knew how hard the struggle is for Pettenato right now. “When I saw your positivity, I knew you were a fighter,” she told her. Pettenato told her daughter. “I believe she was put in my path for a reason,” she said.
Pettenato recently paid it forward by buying a stranger a donut as he had forgotten his wallet. “Throughout this whole journey, I’ve said I am going through this for a reason. When I am done, I am going to be that supporter for someone else — I’m going to volunteer and share my story,” she said.
Pettenato’s positivity and joy has not been taken from her even though she was hit with cancer and loss of kidney functioning, “I never said ‘Why me?’ I said, ‘We got this. We will get through this,'” she said.
Having lost three siblings in 10 years, she feels she has to stay strong for her parents. Pettenato has a lot of love and support around her, her uncle just shaved his head in solidarity and her daughter and husband stand strong by her side. She shared her story with others to let them know that they are not facing the battle alone. “My journey,” she said, “is going to be somebody else’s support system. And positivity is key.”