How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was diagnosed for the first time with breast cancer at the age of 29, in September 2010. It was a complete shock to me and my family. I was a young, single mother of two boys who had everything going for me. I even got a huge promotion three days before being diagnosed.
How did you react when you heard the news?
I was sitting in the doctor’s office with my mom and my best friend and heard the doctor say, “You have stage two breast cancer.” The tears began immediately, since the word “cancer” leads to the thought of “death.” I then started thinking, “What’s the plan?”
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I have been through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and a bilateral mastectomy.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
After my cancer metastasized, I received information from the Komen South Florida Affiliate and looked into clinical trial options. I was ready to do a trial after my radiation treatment, but it turned out that the radiation reduced the size of my brain tumors drastically. I was no longer eligible for the trial, and that surprised me—in a good way, of course.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Know your options. Look into clinical trials at sites like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Breast Cancer Trials, and Cancer.org. Get a second opinion, if not for yourself, then for your family’s peace of mind.
How long have you been cancer-free?
I am not cancer-free. My breast cancer went into remission twice, but has now metastasized to my brain and lungs. However, I am thankful that I caught my cancer—I paid attention to my body and got the medical help I needed.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Someone recently told me, “I’m just so sorry for all that you have had to go through.” I looked at them and smiled and said, “Please do not be sorry, I am so thankful for cancer. It has saved my family and we are closer than ever before, so I wouldn’t change a thing.” My boys truly have an understanding of what family means.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
This may be the craziest thing you’ve ever heard, but cancer saved my family. I was never close to my sister. Growing up, we fought like normal siblings, but it went further. We were so annoyed by each other, never talked, never went out with each other. When you are diagnosed, you understand the importance of little things, and you don’t take anything for granted.
Jessica Aguirre is a mother of two living in Greenacres, Florida. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Jessica was named the Susan G. Komen South Florida Race for the Cure® “Face of the Race” in 2012 and is a 2013 Warrior in Pink.
More from GEM