My name is Gabriela Vasquez.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31.
I am now a one-year breast cancer survivor.
But the battle is far from over!
I have vowed to make my journey meaningful and to make a difference in my community. I hope that in sharing my story, I will help remind others that we must be our own advocates and be proactive in our health.
On Feb. 17, 2017, I was given the devastating news that I had breast cancer. This news, however, did not come as a surprise to me. For one long year, I had been told by countless doctors that I was too young to have breast cancer, despite my family history of breast cancer on my mother’s side.
I was first told that I had a clogged milk duct because I was breastfeeding. Then I was told I had fibrocystic breast.
All of my symptoms were inconsistent with both diagnoses, yet my concerns were continually disregarded by one doctor after another. Fortunately, I knew better. I wasn’t too young! I knew my body better than anyone and I trusted my gut and recognized the symptoms. I continued to seek the medical advice of other doctors.
A year after finding a small, marble-sized lump in my left breast, the mass was finally biopsied. Just two days after my biopsy, I received the call – I had breast cancer. Although my cancer was determined to be stage 3, grade 3, I consider myself to be very lucky.
My story could have ended very differently. I could have simply ignored all of my symptoms, accepted my initial diagnosis and allowed for more time to pass while the cancer continued to spread
But I didn’t.
I became my own advocate!
Although the journey was long and hard, I fought it courageously. I am now in remission, and, God willing, have a long life ahead of me.
I wish I could say that my experience with getting my initial diagnosis was an isolated case. Unfortunately, it’s not!
With that in mind, I would like to end by encouraging all to be their own advocates. To trust your gut feeling. Perform monthly self-exams. Let us not forget that cancer does not discriminate against gender, race, social class or age!
No one will ever know your body better than you so be your own advocate! ￼
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Gabriela Vasquez.