October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and to help increase awareness we spoke to one of our EMTs, Nathen, and his mom Rosana to hear their story. The strength of Rosana as an individual and how her diagnosis brought her family together is an inspiration to us all at Ambulnz. It goes to show you never truly know how something will change you and your family, until your life is turned upside down.
Here is Rosana’s story…
It started back in October of 1999 when I was at a doctor’s appointment for my son Nathen. I mentioned I had found a lump on my left breast. They performed a biopsy to figure out exactly what it was. That’s when they determined it was stage 4 breast cancer. From Nathen’s point of view, it was all very confusing,“I didn’t fully understand what breast cancer was at the time, but I knew it had to be something serious.”
At that point, things started to move fairly quickly as they scheduled me for surgery a couple weeks later on November 5th to remove the cancerous growth. At first, they were only going to remove half of my breast during the operation, but after a second opinion it was decided that they would need to remove it all in case it spreads. During the operation, the surgeon also removed 12 lymph nodes in my arm.
“When you have small kids, you have to be strong. You don’t have room to fall apart.”
Although the growth was removed, my journey was just beginning. Soon after, I began my chemo treatment. This lasted for almost a year and meant me going into the doctor’s office every three weeks and caused me to lose my hair. It was around this time that I started bringing Nathen, my son, with me to my treatments because he was having problems at school. It turned out that kids were making fun of Nathen because of my diagnosis. Now, kids will be kids—there’s not much I could do about that, but I could open their eyes and educate them.
I started at home, by having my kids learn everything that was going on with me so they wouldn’t be scared. I was even told by my kid’s school that I shouldn’t have done that. But I simply told them,“If something happened to me, I want them to know what happened.” Eventually, I spoke to the school’s vice principal and had them hold an assembly to not just help my kids, but the kids of other people who were going through the exact same thing and suffering.
All throughout my treatments, chemo and radiation, I stayed active in my kid’s lives. I’d go and pick up my kids from school and forget that I wasn’t wearing my bandana to cover my hairless head. They would complain and be embarrassed, but I’d simply tell them,“If someone doesn’t want to look at me, they don’t have to.” It was important to stay involved. When you have small kids, you have to be strong. You don’t have room to fall apart.
“Other people they don’t understand. They may look at you like you’re normal. But they don’t understand what you’ve been through.”
Once my treatments were finished, I went in for reconstructive surgery. It just so happened that this surgery landed on the same day as one of Nathen’s championship hockey games. I had never missed a game yet, and wasn’t going to let cancer stop me. When I woke up I told my doctor, “I need to get out of here. My son has a hockey game.” I was able to show up at halftime and cheer my son on. For Nathen, it was even more important, “It actually brought tears of joy to see my mom’s strength and dedication.”
I’ve now been in remission for 17 years. And to this day, my family and myself still feel the impact breast cancer has had on our lives. It taught me and my family an incredibly important lesson on humility. Other people they don’t understand. They may look at you like you’re normal. But they don’t understand what you’ve been through. I told my kids to never make fun of other people because you never know what they’re going through.