Written by Loy Marie Martinez
I come from a long line of family members who have been afflicted and affected by a myriad of cancers and I have always been instrumental in their care. Therefore, when I heard the words, “You have breast cancer. It is very aggressive and we have scheduled you for surgery.”, I was in complete shock. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have felt infallible, “I’m the strong one, I’m the one everyone reaches out to for help….I’m alone, I have no one to help me; how am I going to manage?” This was the afternoon of January 7, 2016. One of my most vivid memories from that terrible day is crying hysterically and being held by one dear friend while another sat stoically with tears in her eyes.
My name is Loy Marie Martinez and I am 53 years old.
As to be expected with an aggressive cancer diagnosis, my journey was a long and arduous one. I eventually had a radical right mastectomy which should have been followed by eight rounds of FEC-D chemotherapy. Unfortunately, on the fifth round, I began experiencing significant bone and joint pain. Whenever I moved, it felt like all of the bones in my body were being attacked with a sledgehammer and were going to shatter. Putting my feet on the floor felt like what I imagined walking on broken glass would feel like. I spoke with the Oncologist and told him that if this is what I had to endure for the next three rounds, I would NOT continue with chemo. I vividly recall laying in bed, praying and willing myself to die. I was giving up. Mercifully, they prescribed a lower dose cocktail and although it meant another 8 weeks of chemo, I was able to continue my treatments. Three weeks after completing my chemo, I was sent for twenty-six rounds of radiation.
For the most part, I am geographically separated from my family and I live alone. Had it not been for the overwhelming source of support, care, love and acts of kindness from individuals who availed themselves to me, I am not sure where I would be today. My GP was phenomenal and made me a priority by ensuring I was seen first in the day and even went as far as assisting in my surgery. My “work family” created and distributed schedules of all kinds to ensure I had all of the support I needed from transportation, meals, support during appointments and during the night after treatments or surgery. (Unbeknownst to me, there were even backups for the backups!)
Along the way, I also found Wellspring Cancer Foundation. Their programs and services helped me develop a strong sense of coping skills and strategies and motivated me to become a Peer Support Volunteer at Wellspring. In this role, I strive to let people know that they don’t need to be alone on their cancer journey. It is my hope to impart “CHOISES” upon others: The ability to Connect, provide Hope, Optimize (on what one has or is given), Inspire others, provide Support, Empower others and Strengthen relationships. Since returning to work on a full-time basis, I have started an Internal Cancer Support Network for my colleagues. Cancer affects us all, whether we are personally living with a cancer diagnosis or caring for an affected loved one or colleague. I have also made it my personal goal to send out inspirational messages daily.
Upon reflection, I can honestly say that in spite of the many challenges, having cancer is one of the best things that has happened to me. It afforded me the opportunity to re-connect with and find myself again. Not to mention the many wonderful people I have met along the way. It is the ability to bring joy and laughter to others that makes me feel Gorgeous.
I am truly Blessed and give thanks each day for the gift of life and living.