Latina Breast Cancer Awareness
A Passionate Pursuit for PreventionFollow this author
In parts 1 and 2, Silvia revealed her diagnosis and talked about her surgery and subsequent treatment.
Chemo and radiation were the right choice for me, I’m not sure if I would be in remission for 15 years without it. But I also made the choice not to do any reconstructive surgery. Although at the time I felt incomplete and was very self-conscious about my body, somewhere along the way that changed. As the years have gone by the deformity is like a medal of honor. I thought I would be embarrassed going to a gym or a spa. But I actually don’t care if I have a deformity. If someone asks me, I am happy to share my journey. I want my journey to be worthwhile. If someone notices one of my breasts is not whole, then maybe they will ask about it, and maybe they will talk about it with their mothers, daughters, or sisters. If it encourages one person to do a self-exam or make that dreaded mammogram appointment, I have made a difference.
The milestones as a cancer survivor are very important. Doctors tell you that if it comes back, it normally happens within the first 5 years. It is almost as if you hold your breath for 5 years. But the first 5 years are really not that much different than the next 10. No matter how much time passes, after you are placed in the annual schedule of mammograms and doctor visits, you still hold your breath each year.
Although you must become religious about your self-exams, a doctor giving you the annual clean bill of health is so important. It is the confirmation of your last 11 months of self-exams. One of my oncologists even taught me that the best time to do your self-exam is when the electric bill comes. That is my reminder every month, it’s a good one and it works. I have shared it with all the girls in my family.
As the years go by, the fear of re-occurrence becomes more not less, more because as I get older many of my contemporaries are dealing with different illnesses including cancer. On the positive side, I have made very substantial changes in my life. I take better care of myself, not only because I want to live for everything life has to give, but mostly, because I owe it to my family to be the healthiest I can be. My children, my husband, my siblings and my wonderful friends are my inspiration to not take my health for granted. I don’t smoke, I eat right and exercise, and I maintain all of my preventative medical care and keep it up to date.
If I am diagnosed again, I am ready to fight back. I worry more now about my daughters, sisters, and nieces as they get older and making sure we are all ready to fight back. I encourage (they call it pestering) them to get their exams. Early detection is key. My early detection gave me the gift of seeing my daughters get married, a mother’s dream to be there on their wedding days. Since then, I have had the gift of holding my grandchildren.
My 28-year-old daughter is currently being watched closely; she has a lump. In the next few months, a second MRI will hopefully reconfirm good news. I am glad I have pestered them about self-exams and mammograms. She and the other women in my family are armed with knowledge about breast cancer – this is the best gift I could have given my family.
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