Latina Breast Cancer Awareness
A Passionate Pursuit for PreventionFollow this author
In part 1 of this series, Silvia talked about being diagnosed with breast cancer and how it affected her, her family and friends.
After the surgery, we received the good news: my lymph nodes were negative, and there was no indication the cancer had metastasized. I was given treatment options, and in a short time, I knew more about medical treatment and breast cancer than I ever thought I would. I took my daughters and sisters along for the learning. Our family became a breast cancer awareness family. We talked about it, we read about it, and we became active participants in my recovery. My choices for treatment were radiation without chemotherapy or both regimens. I opted for the chemotherapy and radiation, as the chances for a re-occurrence were lower; once again, I wanted to stack the deck in my favor.
Taking the more aggressive treatment meant I would most likely lose my hair.
Wanting to have as much control as possible, I got my very long hair cut very short prior to my first chemo treatment. Although the loss of my hair was scary, I wanted to make the best of it. I promised myself and my daughters I would buy great hats. I was looking forward to attending a management meeting looking like Audrey Hepburn. My hair did not completely fall out, but we had a great time picking out “management meeting” hats!
Although the six months of chemo were difficult, I was so blessed to have my husband come sit with me during chemo – even though he is petrified of needles. Almost every session, he would bring a romantic gift. If he was not able to be there, my sister, who never left her son, would find a way to leave my nephew with a sitter so she could be there with me.
One of the most memorable chemo days was my treatment that fell on New Year’s Day. I was about 4 months into chemo, just when you are starting to get really tired from it. Since it was a holiday, my chemo was done in the hospital area rather than the regular outpatient infusion area. Both of my daughters came with me. They laid next to me on a hospital bed watching the Rose Parade and football games, holding each other, talking – just being with them made me stronger. I was so proud of the women they were becoming, having to understand so much at such a young age. As a parent I wanted to protect them, but I knew the best protection they would ever get from cancer was the awareness and knowledge they were now receiving.
Before this happened, the women in my family never talked about going to the doctor. I don’t know if it was a modesty situation or just an aversion to physicians. Either way, at first it was difficult to undress and get checked, but after a while I would see a white coat and automatically take my shirt off. It became not a big deal; in fact it was almost the opposite of one when every time I got a breast exam by a professional who confirmed they did not feel a bump. I would be euphoric, and even today 15 years later I still have that feeling of relief after I receive a breast exam from a doctor.
In the last installment, read more about Silvia’s journey, her milestones, and her advice to others.