Profession: International consultant
Type of Breast Cancer: ER+, Stage III
Year of Diagnosis: 2014
Number of years as a survivor: 4
Relationship to Susan G Komen: Race participant
My name is Maria. At the age 38, with a 1.5-year-old daughter, someone on the other end of the phone line told me that I had breast cancer. Until then, I considered myself very lucky because I had the opportunity to live in interesting places like Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles. I am originally from Spain, but after 12 years in the U.S., I began to call Miami home. I thought I knew a lot about my adopted country but I was wrong, I did not know what to do when facing a cancer diagnosis.
The call came after the doctor found a 2-inch tumor in my left breast following a biopsy. The news changed my life forever. I did not know what to do. I had to ask the person on the phone what the next steps were, what specialist I should contact, about health insurance. I had been lucky, in the 12 years I had been in the U.S., apart from the birth of my daughter, I did not visit any hospital nor had any health problems. After the call, I compelled myself through, what I call, Health Insurance 101 to a Master’s Degree on the matter and the autocracy around it. I learned about statistics, tumors, acceptance letters, types of cancer, and many medical and insurance terms. I was more worried about the process than about the illness itself. But through the hard times, my husband held my hand tight, and I knew that everything would be fine.
I spent 6 months in chemotherapy before my mastectomy, followed by 8 weeks of radiotherapy. When my hair fell out, I bought a “Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction” type of wig. Although I felt I was far from looking like Uma, I received compliments about my “new look;” my colleges did not know about my condition. I went to many business trip meetings using this wig and kept working throughout my treatment because my objective was to keep my life as normal as possible.
During my treatment, I would tell myself, “Let’s go, Maria, you have to finish this.” I thought that once I finished treatment, I would be normal. However, everything changed. I am still fighting with my medical pre-menopause, hot flashes, fatigue, the implant after the mastectomy, the pills, my different body and weight, and my tangled post-chemotherapy curly hair; but there is a new Maria. I feel alive, and I feel powerful!
This has been the most extended and most difficult trip of my life. I have lost many things I considered important, but along the road, I learned a lot. The journey was also difficult for my family and friends, many of who traveled from Spain to be with me; the process did change us all. We may not have become better or wiser, but we are definitely stronger. I know am tough, determined, positive, and resilient. I know I can give love and be loved. I am a fighter, I am a survivor!