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By Minnie Morales
San Antonio Cancer Survivor
I’ve always felt there are many ways to view any situation and essentially make light of anything you are going through.
I never imagined having to face such dark days as early as 20 years old, but that is what God asked me to do.
When I graduated high school and started getting my prerequisites for nursing school, life was hard enough transitioning into adulthood!
I fully trusted the doctors when I showed them a large lump in my right breast that I found while sitting in my college class.
“It’s just a cyst… you’re too young to get breast cancer, don’t worry about it.”
Because breast cancer doesn’t run in my family and I had never encountered anything like that at 19, I believed what I was told.
I finished my prerequisites with a 4.0 GPA and got accepted to UT Health San Antonio for nursing school. It was an exciting time at 19!
I even took my lump with me on a cruise my mom invited me on. We had a great time just being a kid together!
But the lump grew larger, protruding through my right breast into my armpit, and my menstrual cycle had become irregular and temporarily stopped.
I went back to the doctor two more times, finally on the third time I was seen by a female doctor. I told the doctor my mom gave me advice that if something is not supposed to be on your body, look further into it, and frankly remove this large lump!
The doctor agreed, but said first I needed to have an ultrasound of the lump. Two weeks later I received a call regarding the lump results and that I needed to meet with the doctor, but must bring a chaperone for the appointment.
That is when I heard the diagnosis: “The lump is breast cancer.”
My mom who was with me, immediately started crying. But I had no idea about cancer and didn’t really know how to react.
That is one of the main differences I learned being a young survivor. When you are young, you are fearless, you are learning this thing called, “life,” and experiences are new.
So this was indeed something I did not want to waste any energy on fear and resentment on. I just wanted to live.
I chose to immediately delay entering nursing school, which broke my heart. I was supposed to help other people, now I have to help myself?
I was told it would be best to have both my breasts removed since the lump was 4cm and I was so high risk. After recovering from the surgery I chose to have intense chemotherapy—receiving all three aggressive chemotherapy drugs at the same time so I could return to nursing school as soon as possible.
While receiving treatment I quickly saw I was the youngest in the chemotherapy ward.
Everyone I met was older, wiser. It was nice to learn and share our experiences through this cancer journey.
I also wanted to immediately look into cancer support, volunteer and advocacy groups so that another young adult wouldn’t have to go through what I did.
I found San Antonio had so many wonderful people who have been touched by breast cancer and have made this battle their mission, too.
I was blessed to meet with Breast Friends Forever through my wonderful oncologist Dr. Wilks and Ms. Sandra. I joined many other groups and through this horrible disease have grown to be a strong family.
I was able to return to school, wearing a wig and nail polish to hide my bald head and fingernails that had all turned black from the medications. I was able to have my breasts reconstructed and eventually reached my goal of getting my bachelors of science in nursing and later my masters of science in nursing!
I am now a psychiatric nurse practitioner and am blessed God allowed me to live, see, and speak another day to tell my journey.
I will always have the scars across my chest, and memories of a humbling experience. But I am here, and I am able.
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 Minnie Morales.