Carmen Michelle Lopez
I remember it like it was yesterday. I felt a lump on my right breast. I was not too alarmed until two weeks later when I started to feel pain on both of my breasts. I decided to call my gynecologist, Dr. Gerald Roy. He has been my doctor for 18 years and has helped me with other underlining health problems. After my exam, he decided to send me for a mammogram just to be on the safe side. So, I went for a mammogram the next day. After the mammogram they told me I needed further testing, a biopsy. Honestly, I was not alarmed because my mom had so many biopsies and they were all benign. I thought maybe this would be the same for me. I did not think anything of it and went to my appointment still unalarmed.
I was at work preparing for a Friday morning meeting. I left early that day to get some materials I needed for my meeting and to pick up my 13-yearold to drop him off at football practice. That’s when I received the call that changed my life. I never thought in a million years the doctor was going to tell me such horrifying news. It felt like my life was over and everything was in a fog. I could not believe it. I screamed, I cried, I was so angry. I felt disappointed as if I had done this to myself.
My poor son had to hear the news with me. I cannot believe he was so strong and managed to calm me down until I came to a complete stop. My first thought was, “Why me?” I was recuperating from major back surgery that had taken place three months prior to this diagnosis. Immediately I called my husband and told him to meet me at my mom’s house since she lived closer to his job. When I gave him and my family the news that I had Stage 1 invasive breast cancer, they were all in such shock and disbelief.
I had no idea what I was going to face, but by the next day, I started to change my thought process. I told myself, “I am no better than anyone else who has undergone some type of cancer, especially when children experience it as well.” The next day I went to meet with my doctor to discuss my diagnosis and determine a path of treatment. I went with my husband and my boss, Dr. Harel. Having him by our side meant the world to my husband and I. Dr. Kirsten Zarfos was my breast surgeon. She explain the process and had a heart-to-heart conversation with us, and gave us her recommendations of what she thought was best for my treatment. She was such an amazing, loving and caring doctor.
Upon receiving the news of my diagnosis, I contemplated going on a girl’s trip. Dr. Zarfos gave me encouraging words. She told me that this is only a chapter in my life story, and that I will merely continue to turn the pages. Those worlds meant so much to me because it gave me hope and the courage to fight. I am happy I went on the trip with my support team, my cousins, and my best friend. This was much needed before I underwent surgery and treatment. It gave me some time to think and reflect.
After the conversation we had with the doctor and praying about it, I decided to get a lumpectomy and to leave the rest in God’s hands. I started my chemotherapy September of 2017 and completed all my treatments, including radiation, by the end of July 2018.
It was a long journey, but it was so beneficial. I say beneficial because even though it was such a traumatic experience, it was humbling and it awakened my spirituality. We tend to get disconnected from the important things in life with our day-to-day routines. When you really sit down and reflect on what’s important, you realize that life itself and the way we live it should not be dictated or motivated by superficial things. Health, love and sanity should define our happiness.
God has always been with me every step of the way. He guided me through this hard time and sent me such a loving and amazing support system including my loving mother, my amazingly loving mother-in-law who stayed with me every night and took me to most of my treatments as my husband is a firefighter and had to work 24-hour shifts. He also sent my two loving cousins who came most of the time to make me laugh; my loving siblings, family, friends and colleagues; and most of all my loving husband who has loved me unconditionally and was with me every step of the way. I was overwhelmed with LOVE and I thank God for all my blessings.
I am not about what has happened to me. I am who I choose to be. I am strong. I am a fighter. I am a survivor. I live my life with passion, love and purpose, always with God by my side, no matter what circumstances I may face.