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By Kimberly Hernandez
San Antonio Cancer Survivor
One night exactly one month after my 31st birthday, I was taking off my bra getting ready for bed and felt a lump.
I told my ex wife about it and told me “don’t worry, it’s probably fatty tissue”. I knew it was something more and could tell it was different. We know our bodies.
The next day I called my family doctor and made an appointment. When I went in, the physician assistant felt the lump. She asked the usual questions about my age and family history. There is no family history of cancer in my family and she did not think much of it but if I wanted to pursue further testing she would set it up.
We proceeded to mammograms, sonograms, x-rays, scans and biopsies within a week’s time. A lot of the time entering the different doctor’s offices felt like isolation. Thankfully I had an awesome group of family and friends to support me and join me on my journey.
It’s funny how we are able to remember every detail of these situations.
December 19, 2011.
My family doctor called me while I was Christmas shopping and asked me to go into the office at closing.
I knew it had to be bad since the actual doctor was going to stay after hours to tell me my results. If it would have been good news it probably would have been a phone call.
My ex met me at the doctor’s office. He took us into a room and said the three words no one wants to hear: “You have cancer”. My ex immediately broke down. I looked at the doctor and asked him, “What do I have to do?” That quote “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” is beyond true.
Telling my parents and my siblings that I had cancer has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I think that was the only time I actually broke down and cried.
I had a mastectomy. My doctor recommended that I not have immediate reconstructive surgery. My cancer was a stage 2 aggressive cancer. Then 4 months of chemo and 37 radiation treatments.
I take pride in that I still worked full time while completing all my treatments. I believe it helped me not dwell on the chaos that was going on. I learned to accept my “new” body, completely change my wardrobe, and change my outlook on life.
7 and a half years later, I am still here.
I have had 2 different genetic tests performed and they both came back negative. I do not carry the gene. I’ve seen how the diagnosis can affect people and I hope that no one else in my family will have to endure this disease.
Society is obsessed with physical appearance so it can be a lot to take in at times. I’m newly single so I’ve had some awkward conversations but then I remember all I’ve been through.
All that matters is that I am still here. I was bald and rocked the hell out of it because I could not do the wig thing. That’s a freedom some people will never know.
I am eternally grateful to all my family and friends who joined my journey and offered constant love and support.
I’ve joined a sisterhood of other survivors who truly understand all the different stages of what I’ve been through and there to support each other. I am blessed and thankful.
Cancer does not define me.
I vow to live my life to the fullest because I personally know it can change in an instant.
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 Kimberly Hernandez of San Antonio.