I discovered a mass in my right breast at the worst of times; I was on vacation in Mexico with my daughter Ana Maria. I remember waking up, walking to the balcony in our room and feeling a lot of pain in my breast. Since we were on vacation, and because I did not want to ruin my daughter’s enjoyment, I tried to ignore the pain and continue with our day’s plan. As we were getting ready to go out, I finally gathered the courage to tell my daughter the amount of pain I was in. I apologized for giving her bad news; but she quickly assured me that everything would be ok.
I’m not sure how, but in a foreign country, my daughter made arrangements for me to see a doctor. We arrived to the doctor’s office, and I was quickly referred for a mammography and breast ultrasound. In Mexico, far away from my home, and with my daughter by my side, I began my breast cancer journey. From this point forth, everything that transpired was like a dream- more like a nightmare.
The physician in Mexico provided me with a CD and my results. I brought them to Jackson Memorial, where I was officially diagnosed with ER positive Stage 3 Breast Cancer. In 2010, at the age of 50, I began the chemotherapy treatments. I was scheduled for daily treatments for 21 days, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to sustain the side effects. I developed sores around my mouth; had stomach and digestive issues; and I lost my hair, eyebrows, and nails. From the very first treatment, I had periods of vomiting, and an uncontrollable weakness.
I found my path back to being healthy through the support of my family, friends, instructors and community programs. I was particularly active within the Cancer Support Community, who’s Komen funded psychosocial support program allowed me to find myself. I enjoyed the support groups and the conversation, but taking Tai Chi and yoga classes truly helped me deal with my depression.
Being a survivor means that I have an opportunity to value and enjoy my family. I spend more quality time with my daughter and my husband, Robert. I have a much more positive outlook, and make an effort to follow a healthy lifestyle. I encourage everyone, myself included, to keep track of changes in your breast and get an annual mammogram. To any woman that is willing to listen to me, I let them know that cancer brought me many new “sisters” and we do not have to be afraid. If you took the time to read my story, remember to have faith and courage. The fight is not always easy, but it is worth it!