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By Amy Perez
San Antonio Cancer Survivor
Just after my 22nd birthday while putting on tanning lotion, I noticed a hard lump in my chest that I hadn’t noticed before.
My mom works at MD Anderson in Houston, so I told her about the lump as soon as I noticed it, and she helped me get an appointment to get the lump checked out.
My cancer was far enough along to where there was no waiting for results. They told me before I left the hospital that day that I had cancer.
I began chemo right away but my body was resistant to it. At the end of 6 months of chemo my tumor was 10x larger than when I had started. My doctors told me that I was inoperable, which is pretty hard news at just 22.
As if having cancer and struggling with treatment wasn’t hard enough, I also had an unsupportive husband, worked full time and all of my treatment was in Houston so I had to commute back and forth from San Antonio.
While my body may have “failed” chemo, I wasn’t ready to give up.
I tried a pill form of chemo in conjunction with radiation that in studies had done well with resistant tumors like mine, and it helped enough to where they eventually let me have surgery.
I am approaching 11 years since that surgery and my cancer has never come back!
While I am not thankful that I had cancer, I am thankful for the way that cancer has changed my life.
I got divorced after cancer, I am self-conscious about my scars, and part of me will always feel like “the bald girl.” Even simple things like planning a family are more complicated because I have to worry about a recurrence while having a small child, and passing my genetic disorder (BRCA2) on to my children.
Despite all the negatives, through cancer and all the ways it changed my life, I am now married to my best friend and we have the most beautiful daughter who we ensured would not carry my genetic disorder for cancer. I travel often, spend lots of time with my family, and I make time for my passion for real estate.
Had I not gotten sick so early and discovered that I had a genetic disorder, my family wouldn’t have known to get tested and be proactive with their own health.
In co-founding the Breast Friends Forever (BFF) support group in San Antonio, I have been given such a since of purpose and joy that I don’t think could be replaced.
Giving my time to women going through cancer, whether it be meeting them at Starbucks so they can ask me about what to expect or going with them to keep them company at chemo, is something that I really enjoy.
I never met anyone else young that had breast cancer until years after I was better, and I love being able to give to other young women with cancer what I never had—a sense of not being the only one and assurance that life will be OK again.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of guest blog posts from Breast Friends Forever (BFF) in San Antonio, Texas (64% Latino). BFF is a support group that enables young breast cancer survivors to share stories and experiences, developed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio (the team behind Salud America!) and Susan G. Komen San Antonio. Email BFF or Visit BFF on Facebook. The main image above features Amy Perez with her family.