Living with MBC
Julie Louviere is a Komen San Antonio Affiliate volunteer and a breast cancer survivor. She serves on the Latinas for a Cureandthe Education Program committees, and helps deliver Survivor Gift Baskets to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Here is Julie’s storyin her own words.
I was 29 years old, living in Puerto Rico and in the best shape of my life. I was eating right, training for a triathlon— that’s running, swimming AND biking—and I was 115 pounds of healthy, lean muscle! I felt like I was in total control of my life. Then it happened. In the middle of all my training, I found a knot near my collarbone.
I hated doctors, but my husband made me see a physician to get the knot checked out. The doctor said to wait six months to see if it changed in color or size. Something didn’t feel right, and I decided to have the knot removed as soon as possible. That decision changed my life.
After the surgery to remove the cyst, I went for a check up. The look on my doctor’s face had changed dramatically. He explained that on one side of the cyst, cancer cells were discovered. I had breast cancer— a very aggressive form of breast cancer.
My head was spinning. I had a 4-year-old daughter and a husband who loved me. I didn’t want to die! I thought maybe it was all a mistake and that this was someone else’s tumor. Until that point, I thought cancer was something that only old people got. I was too young for cancer.
I decided to have a mastectomy to remove my breast. It was then that the doctors found cancer in three lymph nodes. One of the nodes had opened, meaning the cancer could spread to other parts of my body. My treatment after surgery was aggressive: heavy doses of chemotherapy for four months and six weeks of radiation.
I stayed mentally strong. While other patients slept through chemotherapy, I would be eating a burger, watching television and talking to anyone who would listen. This thing called cancer was not going to take me down!
Chris and I had always wanted to have another child. Due to the heavy dose of chemo, the doctors said I could be sterile, but I had faith and five months later I was pregnant! I was six months pregnant when I got very dehydrated and was rushed to the emergency room. The next thing I recall was opening my eyes in a hospital bed, hooked up to anI.V. and getting a blood transfusion. My cancer was back. But this time it was in my liver and bones.
The oncologist recommended aggressive chemotherapy treatments and that meant terminating the pregnancy. I decided to take a lower dose of chemotherapy to treat the cancer and protect the baby from large doses of the medication. The doctor monitored the fetus twice a week. Thankfully they learned the toxic chemotherapy chemicals bounced off the placenta and did not harm the fetus. On Valentine’s Day, my beautiful baby girl, Alis, was born via C-section.
Finding support and friendship
A lifesaver that came into my life was called The Women of Flying Colors—a breast cancer support group. Shortly after Alis was born, we moved to Memphis, where I heard of these survivors. At the time, I was lonely being in a new town with a new baby, and these women were amazing! I felt like I had come back to life! We were always laughing and having fun. They always have the answers, and to this day I stay in contact with them. They are like my sisters.
Today I am still fighting. I take chemo treatments once a month. The treatments killed most of the tumors but I still have a few stubborn ones.
Cancer changes the way you look at life. My husband is a saint for being by my side through it all! My girls keep me going. Ava is now 14 years old and Alis is 5. I don’t sweat the small stuff in life and don’t worry about the weight I have gained from some of the medicine or that my eyelashes and brows are gone. I didn’t fight this hard to be a model!
There is one thing that still concerns me: Each year the number of YOUNG Latinas being diagnosed with breast cancer is growing. At the same time, our older Latinas are not doing their self-exams and getting mammograms. That’s why I am volunteering my time with Latinas for a Cure with the Komen San Antonio Affiliate. We are specifically trying to educate Latinas about breast cancer. What do I tell other women? THERE IS LIFE AFTER BREAST CANCER! I am living proof!