Senior EditorFollow this author
In August 2004, my high school and college friend, Lilly Lorenzo-Luaces, a child psychologist who lives in Miami with her fiancee, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost 11 years later, she is cancer free. I sat down with her to discuss her story.
Question: When did you first suspect there was something wrong? Had you been doing the monthly self-checks that are recommended?
Answer: I was in my 30s, traveling, going out with my friends, and life was good. I was not expecting anything out of the ordinary.
Question: Did your family have any history of breast cancer or other cancers? No, they did which is why being diagnosed with breast cancer was even scarier because there was not warning. I did my monthly exams in the shower and nothing seemed off until August of 2004, when I felt a small lump in my left breast that was a little painful.
Question: How did you feel when you first found out it was cancer?
Answer: I was in complete shock. I cried for 4 days and questioned why it was happening to me.
Question: Did your family ever talk about breast health or other similar topics? If not, do you think that it is related to our culture?
Answer: My family never really talked about health issues. We were all around healthy individuals so there was never a real need to focus on health. As Latinos, we knew healthcare was important but it wasn't always at the forefront of our decisions and lives.
Question: What advice would you give young women -- especially Latinas -- about being more proactive about their health specifically with regards to breast cancer?
Answer: You need to be your own self-advocate. You need to take care of yourself, live healthy, live positively. Even when I faced cancer I still knew I had to be positive in order to get through it and to survive.
Question: You are an extremely strong and resilient woman. How did your family upbringing afect the way you faced this incredible challenge in your life?
Answer: My parents came to the US with a suitcase and started life over again. That kind of resiliency is in my blood. In my mind, I had no other choice because for me dying was not an option.
Question: How has surviving breast cancer changed you as a person?
Answer: I wanted to live. I wanted to travel. I wanted to fall in love. I didn't want to miss out on anything, so I fought hard through my double mastectomy, chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery, and a hysterectomy.
Question: What was the biggest lesson you learned from your experience?
Answer: You never give up and getting cancer has made me who I am today. I have met and built such wonderful relationships with so many individuals. I wouldn't trade the last 10 years for the world.