In December of 2008, while being admitted to the hospital for an extreme headache and stomach pains, Ana never could have imaged the turn the next 11 months of her life would take. Shortly after her arrival, doctors concluded Ana had breast cancer and two brain tumors. She then faced additional disconcerting news—that her surgery would take place in just a few short days and on her son’s 7th birthday.
Ana’s fight against cancer would see many more low and high points throughout her journey. As a wife and mother of three young children, she often struggled with the guilt of missing special events in their lives and maintaining her role in the family. While she was grateful for the incredible support from her family and friends, she never fully opened up to them about the challenges she faced as a result of her cancer. She wanted to be strong for her family and avoid becoming a burden to them, a worry that seemed to concern only Ana.
During one of her doctor’s appointments, Anna picked up a brochure about the Cancer Support Community (CSC) of Greater Miami, formerly The Wellness Community, a local non-profit that offered a wealth of services to people with cancer and their loved ones at no cost. The very next day, Ana walked into CSC Greater Miami and quickly found herself becoming a regular participant. She attended weekly support groups and developed strong ties with other breast cancer patients, who could identify with her experience. Seeing the positive impact of the Cancer Support Community, Ana’s husband, Victor, even starting going to corresponding caregiver groups.
Over the next year, Ana endured countless surgeries, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy sessions. Unfortunately, she also received the news that the cancer had spread to her meninges, bones and several other spots in her body. With the close support of her family and friends, many of whom frequently travelled internationally to visit, Ana maintained a positive attitude and celebrated her 40th birthday and 14th wedding anniversary in hospital rooms and in between chemo sessions, determined to make the best of her situation.
Ana was honored for her bravery throughout her fight including being named honorary female cancer survivor at a Relay for Life event in her hometown of Miami, Florida. Shortly after the event, Ana learned all of the cancer sports from her liver, lungs and bones were gone. Loosing vision in her left eye hasn’t slowed Ana’s continued progress. Currently in remission, she’s begun walking on her own and regaining her ability to climb stairs and perform everyday tasks.
Having experienced the impact of breast cancer first hand, Ana joined the Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects the Physical) Project to help make a difference for the millions of women who are affected by the disease.
The Cancer Survivor Registry’s Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects the Physical) Project is a movement to identify and address the emotional and social needs that accompany a breast cancer diagnosis. By joining this first-of-its-kind registry and sharing their breast cancer experience, women have a unique opportunity to help researchers better understand the full impact of breast cancer and ultimately discover innovative ways to improve the cancer journey for millions. Initiated by the Cancer Support Community’s Research and Training Institute, the M.A.P. Project is made possible through a generous grant from The Breast Cancer Fund of National Philanthropic Trust. For more information or to join the movement, visit. www.breastcancerregistry.org