Latina Breast Cancer Awareness
A Passionate Pursuit for PreventionFollow this author
As a child and young woman my family never discussed cancer; maybe we were fortunate not to have had a reason to or just simply it was the belief that if you do not discuss cancer you won’t get it. The only illnesses discussed were the heart-attacks my grandmother claimed we gave her every time my sisters and I did something to annoy her. When I mentioned to my mother that I had discovered a hard spot on my breast, she said, “Yeah, it is probably from breast -feeding, not letting your milk dry out right.” Several years, many biopsies, and several opinions later the once benign breast lump was diagnosed as stage 2 breast cancer.
The day I was diagnosed, my then boyfriend and now husband attended the doctor’s visit; thank goodness I was not too proud or embarrassed. That was the first time, besides a baby doctor visit, I had someone attend a doctor’s visit with me. Most of my factual information from that doctor’s visit are from his memory. Even 15 years later, I do not remember anything the doctor said after, “You have breast cancer.”
The complete doctor’s visit is a blur; I only remember sitting in the car not wanting to go home, because I had to tell my daughters that their mother had cancer. We decided to go to the park. I sat there thinking the only way to survive this was to take as much control over my well-being as possible. I smoked my last cigarette at that park and decided I was going to do everything I could to be as healthy as I could be. I needed to stack the deck in my favor.
After telling my beautiful teenage daughters that we had a challenge in front of us, my 13 year old asked me to promise I would not die. I remember telling her that I don’t make promises I can’t keep. “I can promise you we will do everything in our power to have me be as healthy as I can be,” I explained. “We will gather our strength as a family and make this journey with each other and God.”
Being the first female diagnosed with breast cancer in a family of women made for some incredible dynamics. First, my “abuelita” told me the doctors were wrong, doctors don’t know a thing. My younger sister became my holistic expert, filling my medicine cabinet with things I had never heard of, such as COQ 10, shark cartilage pills, and cranberry extract.
Prior to the diagnosis, I was always the sister / daughter / friend that took care of everyone. Suddenly, I had to give up control. People were trying to help me and I actually needed the help. Friends provided assistance, doctor referrals, and connected me with other survivors. I learned so much by talking with survivors; they helped me to understand what to expect. They gave support, insight and inspiration. By the time my surgery came about, I felt strong and was not worried about the physical effects of the surgery. I just wanted to be a survivor. I told the surgeon, “Just get clean margins, you go as far as you need to go.” I did not want to be only a portrait on my daughters’ wedding days.
In the next installment, read about Silvia’s post-surgery results and treatment.
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