A Survivor’s 30+-Year Fight Against Breast Cancer: Michelle DeBlasi of Pompton Plains Shares Her Story

Michelle DeBlasi has been fighting for a long time.

First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, she has persevered in her battle against the disease for more than 30 years. Since being diagnosed as a young mother in her early forties, Ms. DeBlasi has known hardships and triumphs alike, and has met both with a positive attitude and a survivor’s spirit. She first underwent a lumpectomy, but five years later required a mastectomy to treat recurrent disease. Since then, she has received many other forms of treatment as her cancer has gone in and out of remission.

Through all those years of struggle, she has found the strength to go on – and even to laugh often – despite the obstacles in her way.

Strength from – and for – family

“I’m always trying to laugh,” the Pompton Plains, NJ resident explains. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, Michelle, you look so good.’ I try to put on a nice front for my family and my friends, but really, sometimes, I’m hurting on the inside. But we all have something we need to deal with,” Ms. DeBlasi notes, attributing her outlook in part to lessons learned from her late mother. “My mom would always tell me, ‘If you had a circle of people and everybody put their problems in the middle of that circle so that you could choose which one to take, the best thing you could do would be to pick your own because somebody always has something worse than you.’ That’s how I try to live.”

Pompton Plains, NJ resident Michelle DeBlasi, pictured with Dr. Andrew Bernstein, shares her fight against breast cancer.

Her mother is just one of the many relatives from whom Ms. DeBlasi draws inspiration. She glows while discussing her family, recounting the 47 years she has been married to her husband, Frank, a union which has blessed them with two daughters. Her daughters also live in Pompton Plains, enabling Ms. DeBlasi to fill her days attending the school functions, baseball games, and other activities of her grandchildren; Tyler and Rebecca. Her motherly – and grandmotherly – pride shines through as she talks about what’s important to her in life. (Ms. DeBlasi’s maternal instincts aren’t limited to her family, however. During a long career as an accountant with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, she was known as “the office mom,” because of the care and concern she demonstrated for younger colleagues.) She is quick to note that her husband and daughters have fully returned the love she has lavished on them, saying “they’ve been with me every step of the way.”

A caring cancer specialist

And for the last several years, Ms. DeBlasi adds, another person’s care and skill also have supported her in her journey with advanced breast cancer and have helped her maintain her health and quality of life.

She explains that after experiencing a recurrence and needing to see a medical oncologist, her sister Denise suggested that she make an appointment with Andrew Bernstein, DO. “My sister works in healthcare, so that recommendation carried a lot of weight – and, boy, has it proven to be a great piece of advice,” Ms. DeBlasi says.

She adds, “Dr. Bernstein has been wonderful. He is kind, caring, and passionate about what he does. If you have one question or 20 questions, he will sit with you and take the time needed to go through all your questions and address your concerns. There have been many times when I’ve had my family here with me and I’d be crying and he was trying to console me and answer my questions,” she says. With her breast cancer now having reached an advanced stage, Ms. DeBlasi says that the support she receives from Dr. Bernstein and his team has increased in step with the frequency of her visits. “Now I’m here basically on a weekly basis to see him, and everybody on the staff is great. They’re all kind and loving.”

Dr. Bernstein, a board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist, says, “Michelle is an inspiration to all women facing breast cancer and also to me and to everyone here in our office. I never cease to be amazed and motivated by Michelle and all my patients and the strength they display. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to be strong all the time or that you should not acknowledge the fears and sadness you may be feeling. We’re here to treat people wherever they are in their cancer journey – whether that be very early disease where we’re pursuing cure or advanced cancer where our focus is on extending life and maintaining quality of life. In the same way, we’re here to support people on their good days and their bad ones, whether they are brimming with optimism or weighed down with worry.”

“No one should face cancer alone, and we’re committed to providing not only the newest therapies but also the old-fashioned empathy and concern that remain at the heart of medicine,” adds Dr. Bernstein, who practices at the Riverdale, NJ offices of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), one of the nation’s largest networks of oncology specialists.

Ms. DeBlasi echoes Dr. Bernstein’s comments about the importance of accepting and processing one’s emotions, whatever they may be. “I do have occasional pity parties where I sit and I cry for an hour, but then I tell myself, ‘I’ve got to get over this because I don’t know how long I’m going to live.’ So, my mindset is ‘just live every day.’” Ms. DeBlasi adds that there is abundant cause for hope thanks to the dramatic advances that have been made in the fight against cancer. When she was diagnosed, she explains, she was motivated to fight because she didn’t want her daughters to grow up without their mother. “I had young children back then, so I decided I was going to do what I needed to and stay as positive as I could and look how far it got me!”

She encourages people newly diagnosed with cancer to embrace a positive attitude as best they can, while also acknowledging their fears and worries and obtaining the support they need. And she has one other piece of advice for newly diagnosed patients who live in Morris or Passaic counties or nearby communities. “I’d say connect with Dr. Bernstein. He’s a wonder.”


Dr. Bernstein has treated patients in Morris County and surrounding communities for more than 10 years.  After earning his medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, he completed an internship and residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, as well as a medical oncology fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital.  He has since served as the Associate Director of Medical Oncology at Chilton Medical Center, and is one of more than 90 cancer specialists who treat patients at more than 20 RCCA care centers located throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, area. RCCA oncologists and hematologists see more than 24,500 new patients each year and provide care to more than 245,000 established patients, collaborating closely with their patients’ other physicians. They offer patients the latest in cutting-edge treatments, including immunotherapies and targeted therapy, as well as access to a wide range of clinical trials. In addition to serving patients who have solid tumors, blood-based cancers, and benign blood disorders such as anemia, RCCA care centers also provide infusion services to people with a number of non-oncologic conditions—including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, iron-deficiency anemia, and rheumatoid arthritis—who take intravenously-administered medications.

To learn more about RCCA, call 844-928-0089 or visit RCCA.com.

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For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.


Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.