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By Liz Sanchez
Breast Cancer Survivor in San Antonio
My name Liz Sanchez and I am a cancer survivor — twice, since 2010.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on December 16, 2010, at the age of 39. It was approximately one week before Christmas. So as you can imagine, my holidays were ruined for me.
My OB/GYN sent me for my first mammogram and this is how it was discovered. My doctor moved quickly by setting me up with an oncologist and surgeon.
I was diagnosed at stage 2. My BRCA test was negative and my family did not have a history of breast cancer. My grandfather’s sister passed of stage 4 breast cancer, but it skipped a generation. I had my tumor removed surgically on Jan. 11, 2011. I then underwent radiation therapy only. I refused to have chemo.
Being diagnosed with cancer took a huge toll on me because I was always the type of person who would exercise, eat well, take vitamins and always take care of my body.
So as you can imagine, I became extremely depressed and in shock. Being a petite person, the radiation and meds made me very sick and I lost too much weight. This caused me to be admitted to the hospital because my blood pressure was very low and the doctor’s could not control it.
During my follow up appointments, my oncologist discovered two more tumors in 2012, but only wanted to keep an eye on them.
I fell into a deep depression period again. It affected my personal life and work life as well. I underwent therapy to deal with the depression.
A Second Battle with Breast Cancer
In January of 2015, I noticed 2 painful lumps and immediately called my doctor.
I decided to fight back and advocate for myself because no one was willing to help me. My oncologist did not want to do anything about it.
So, I decided to search for other oncologists that would listen to me and my symptoms. In July of 2015, I found another oncologist, who was very helpful and advised me of all my options and was a very understanding oncologist. She was referred to me by one of the Breast Friends Forever (BFFs) support group in San Antonio.
I had several tests done to confirm the malignant tumors.
During an MRI test, I had an anaphylaxis shock to the IV contrast. This caused me to be rushed to the hospital because it was a severe reaction. Again, my blood pressure dropped severely and doctors could not control it. For 4 months I researched on how to combat this disease without chemo, radiation or medication.
On Nov. 19, 2015, I had my surgery to only remove the tumors, but not remove my lymph nodes. I advocated for my own body and treatments with my oncologist and surgeon. The oncologist advised me of the risks of not doing therapy and I took that chance. I did not want to go through the chemo or radiation or even take medications.
It was a decision that my family and I had to make and my family was very supportive.
My kids were very supportive but were still worried about me. I told my family that God will protect me and I would leave it in God’s hands. It has been a tough journey to beat it TWICE, but I have done it!
I am back to work and slowly recovering, but I did not let it beat me and my depression and anxiety has decreased. It is an awful feeling to wonder if I would live another year with my family, BUT not anymore.
I have beaten this disease again and will not let it rule my life ever again.
After Beating Cancer Twice, Some Advice for Others
Please consult with your oncologist before making any decisions on your own. It may not always work for others as it worked for me.
Today, I am much happier and proud of myself for advocating for my health and not letting the doctor dictate what they think is best for me.
It’s my body and I needed to do whatever it took to take care of it.
I thank my beautiful BFFs for their support and help in finding a great oncologist. I’m blessed to have the BFF group to help me in that time of need.
In 2013, I joined the BFF executive team to teach others how to advocate for themselves and inform them that cancer can happen at a young age.
Informing others about this disease and helping those in need is very rewarding to me. Especially to those with breast cancer!
Young ladies, you can beat this and advocate for your body. Don’t give up and push your doctors to listen to you!
God Bless you, my beautiful BFFs!
A Few More Questions
How does cancer affect young women or you?
Many young women cannot get assistance to the full extent needed.
The government only does enough to keep you alive. I was fortunate that I had insurance to get full treatments. Afraid to leave my family behind was my biggest concern. I was a 38-year-old young woman and was afraid to leave my children and husband behind.
How do the effects of cancer alter self confidence?
This is a big one.
My confidence was affected because I felt deformed of some sort. No one knew what I was going through. I avoided people all the time and eventually became depressed. My surgery made me deformed as if I had lost my womanhood.
What types of coping strategies did you use?
I went to therapy to help me get back to my life.
I felt like an outcast. took walks, ate rich foods to help with antioxidants, and got support from my friends.
Where are you now?
Today I’m cancer free. I enjoy time with my grandson who always gives me joy.
My family saw the difference in me and are happy.
What is one lesson you have learned?
I have learned never to lose my faith and live as if it was my last day on earth.
What does cancer survivorship mean to you?
Survivorship means never take an illness for granted.
Take care of yourself and listen to your body.
We’re full of life and we must enjoy every minute of it with family and friends. Surround yourself with love and affection for life.
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 and additional images feature Liz Sanchez.