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Monday 29, October 2018

SONIA DÍAZ’S TESTIMONY

Sonia Díaz Armas. CV: Profession, before cancer, Flight Attendant.  Breast cancer survivor, triple negative in stage three since 2008.  40 years old.

I offer my personal testimony in the hope that it will be of support to all women who are, have been, or are close to cancer.  With the hope of helping, of bringing enthusiasm to a dramatic and extreme situation.  Using my experience, I try to guide others in how to fit back into an aesthetic society when you bear scars and into an intense working world, when you are a mother, disabled and a survivor.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, when I was 30 years old.  I had been working as a flight attendant for nine years, living fast, soaking myself in the world, in life, in experiences.  It stopped my world.  A countdown began, which hopefully, we have been able to stop.  I was born again, I have a chance of life, and I built a new life as a survivor, based on enthusiasm, resilience and the desire to LIVE.

The struggle for survival after cancer, despite being cured, is not easy.  Every day is a challenge, to live with residual pain from the chemotherapy, with exhaustion, with scars and to adapt a working life to the aftereffects of cancer, of the treatment received.  It’s a feminine adventure, still to be defined and evaluated.  The bills keep coming in.  Life keeps on going.  If I have any quality that has helped me in all this, it’s perseverance.

I persevered in my efforts to cure a cancer in which I had a 30 per cent chance of surviving the first 24 months.  I persevered to make sure I got an immediate reconstruction of my removed breasts.  I persevered to enter the world of work and in getting a job that would adapt to the aftereffects of my treatment …  I have not yet succeeded.  I have had 11 different jobs in eight years, but I have almost succeeded, if good health stays on my side of course!  I persevere and I get results.

It’s not an easy pink path, it’s multicoloured!  There are jet black days, I have learned to let them flow, having bad days also makes me enjoy and value good days, rainbow days, happiness, fun and peace.  The impact of the diagnosis for me was devastating.  At only 30 years old, with no family history of this illness and with an active life, I didn’t expect news like that.  But I clung to my 30 per cent of hope.  I suffered through chemotherapy. radiotherapy and surgeries.  Tortuous processes, which take you to the limit along the silk thread from which your life hangs.

That didn’t last forever!  As it happened, my hair grew at the same rhythm as my wounds healed and I recovered my composure.  Then come the aftereffects, you are cured but you can’t fight a battle like that and come out as new, you come out dishevelled, scratched, bruised yet rejoicing!  You managed to live!  Miracle!

Two years later, my body surprised me by gifting me a pregnancy with twins, boy and girl.  All of us healthy.  They are five years old now, and wow! it’s an exhausting miracle, a wonderful experience.  It should be noted that my cancer was triple negative, so there was no danger in my continuing with the pregnancy.  I had also had genetic tests carried out and had no mutation that could be inherited by my children.

Work

As I have already mentioned, I still need to pay my expenses and those of my children, so I need to work and I want to work.  It’s difficult.  How do you keep a job when you need time off at least every fifteen days, for medical appointments?  And you are frequently out on sick leave?  Well, in my case, I’ve tried many different jobs, different companies… Now I’m in an office, full time, a little over that if you count the overtime, for which I don’t get paid – although I should.  However, they let me go to the doctor, they allow me to miss a day if I feel bad, usually caused by spasms or cramps in the areas that received radiation therapy.

When I take stock of these years, my life is in two parts.  Before cancer I was one person, now I am another, improved, but also bruised.  We all focus on overcoming the disease, on surviving that stage, but when you survive and the years go by, along the way you leave many companions of the same battle.  Companions who are no longer by your side.  I can only say that I am fortunate and that is why I want to take huge bites out of life.  I care very little about residual pain, fibromyalgia, spasms, cramps, scars, prostheses!  Whatever!  I’m still here, in one piece, I lack bits of body but I don’t lack health, that’s what I have, HEALTH.

The bad days, that exist, the dark ones, are the ones I have the least, thank goodness!  I don’t want to negate them.  There are days when I see myself naked and I am still surprised to see a nipple 10 years old in a body aged by 40 wonderful and stupendous years.  I still miss my lost body parts but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the ones I have left.  This body that still works for me and that I enjoy a lot!

Life seems to me to be a gift that has touched me, I don’t know why, but I have it and I enjoy it as if I had it for the first time every day.  I enjoy the dark circles under my eyes at 6am, the motorway traffic backup on the way to work, the bad nights with the children when they don’t sleep, the waiting room in oncology with clenched stomach muscles for each routine visit, being on the beach in my bikini worrying about the scars, not being able to sleep because of the intense pain, the sunsets, seeing the sunrise whilst sitting at the feet of my children’s beds, the arguments at work, the glasses of wine with my friends, the coldness of the medical tests every six months and eating doughnuts knowing that it is pure poison!

I enjoy!  And that’s all I can ask for.  That’s all I can recommend to anyone who goes through this.  Enjoy the good minutes and let the bad ones flow without negating them, they exist, but the days of soft breeze, warm light and a heart full of music will be more intense than ever.   Every year I’m still alive, the intensity of the good increases, also the appearance of aftereffects of the treatment received, but also my resistance to days without beautiful colours.  The rainbow of my heart, gives colour to what surrounds me, paints my family in bright colours, my friends in warm colours, my companions in the fight in pink and bad memories … no longer have any meaning or colour!

Thank you chemotherapy for letting me continue.

April 2018, from a place with a lot of life.