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Back in 2004, Carmen, who was 38 at the time, was living life as she normally was. She would go to work at the VA Medical Center, spend time with her three children, and would catch up on her favorite shows when she could. However, in October, she started noticing some changes with her body, one in particular that caused her to worry. When Carmen put on her bra, she felt a lump on her breast, but thought that it was just because of her menstrual cycle. She went to the doctor, got tests done and was told nothing was wrong.
This continued until April 2005 when she went for her pap smear and mammogram. After a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound, Carmen was told to get a biopsy for the lump on her breast. “You couldn’t feel the lump when I was laying down. When doing the tests, I had to hold where the lump was so it was not lost when I would lay down for the tests” Carmen explained. “Going into the biopsy, I knew what the results were going to be positive.” On April 7, 2005, Carmen’s assumptions were confirmed when she got the call that she was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer.
“Working in the medical field, I was somewhat prepared for everything. I knew which doctor I wanted to perform my mastectomy, I knew what was coming from the side effects of the treatments,” Carmen said. The hardest part, however, was seeing how her family dealt with it. Carmen and her family are very close, and when she got diagnosed, her family was there with her every step of the way. “They were and always will be my biggest supporters. They made sure that I was ok and was never alone. In a way, this made us closer and I thank God every day for having them in my life.”
While her co-workers at the VA helped as much as they could financially with giving Carmen some of their sick days, for example, the financial side of breast cancer started to kick in. Bills were getting harder to pay and her Medicare plan did not cover her medication and other copays. This is where Komen helped tremendously. “I found out about Komen through some people in the field and I am so grateful I did. They helped ensure that I did not have to worry about sacrificing my medication and they provided a community of support. It means a lot to know that there is support and people who care and are willing to help others.”
Unfortunately, Carmen’s battle with cancer did not end there. When she beat breast cancer in 2006, six years later she started to have back pain in 2012. This resulted in metastatic cancer to the bone due to high levels of estrogen in her system. Carmen, though, has been through the “cancer thing” before and knows that she can count on her family for endless support. Whether she is beading with her granddaughter or traveling to Puerto Rico to be with her family, she is happy to spend as much time with them as she can. “One of the positives about having cancer, especially breast cancer, is that now my family gets checked regularly,” Carmen says, “it makes me happy to know that they are healthy too and I can help them have a long, healthy life.”