“I’m not a Cancer, I’m a Capricorn”: the brave testimony of a Mexican woman in Spain

Mexican in Spain and mother of a small mexiñol (son of Mexican and Spanish), Paola tells us her testimony as a breast cancer survivor to give encouragement to people with the disease and their caregivers.

Article of Paola Sandoval Huerta *

I am Paola Sandoval Huerta, Mexican, from Guadalajara and breast cancer survivor. I come from a family of doctors, from my paternal grandfather to my brother who is the last to have studied this great profession.

I grew up listening to a play on words that has to do with the signs of the zodiac when they refer to someone having been detected cancer. The humor of some doctors is usually a bit sour, my dad’s is no exception.

“I am not Cancer, I am Capricorn”

That play on words reverberated in my being on July 3, 2018, when I found out that I have a lesion on my chest with the peculiar name of “Piaget”, linked to possible breast cancer. I find out about this in the most sui generis way. This is my story.

My GP gave me the result of the biopsy that had been done to me without explaining it well because he preferred that the specialist explain it to me, something that is usually part of the protocol.

His attempts to reassure me did not work until I had my appointment with the dermatologist. In addition to being a curious person and coming from doctors, reading the results made me uneasy because I had a very ambiguous recollection of something about this disease and that it had to do with cancer. I did not hesitate for a moment to get into the famous saint Google to investigate about it. I typed in “Piaget” and, when I clicked on the search engine, it immediately took me to a cancerology page, which confirmed my suspicions. Alone and with my soul I find out about my possible cancer.

About one in 12 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the WHO. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women. In 2020, around 685,000 women died as a result of this disease.

My whole life suddenly came to my mind and the only great fear that beat strongly in my heart was to orphan my son who was about to turn 2 years old, my second concern was how to give news of this magnitude to my parents , ten thousand kilometers away.

In a state of shock, I decided to talk to my brother, also a doctor, explain what was happening to me and ask for his help to talk with my dad from professional to professional and even more so from gynecologist to gynecologist.

Upon hearing the news moved by that wonderful brotherly love, my brother suggested that I go to Mexico. I live in Toledo with my husband and a mini mexiñol, that is, my son is half Mexican and half Spanish. He specifically suggests Guadalajara, our land, where he agrees to find one of the best onco-gynecologists in the country, since they are great friends and work as a team in situations of this nature.

But I still had to talk to my husband to break the news and make decisions together. After analyzing the pros and cons, we decided to accept my brother’s offer to go to Mexico to treat me. The complicated thing about this matter is that in the face of this type of illness, time is worth money and the faster one is treated, the better.

Foto: National Cancer Institute (Unsplash)

So on July 8 I was already taking a plane with my son, with a suitcase full of hopes to get through all this. On July 9 they do the pertinent studies where it is confirmed that I have a tumor for which they would have to operate, on July 14 they perform a radical mastectomy and that day I am born again, because even though I lose a part of my A body that is closely linked to my femininity and motherhood, when taking it off, my body was being cleansed of this other body that strongly threatened to orphan my son at such a young age, in addition to the fact that I am a woman who really enjoys living, who intensely love my family, friends and my two lands, Mexico and Spain, so if it was necessary for them to remove my breast and any other part of my body, I would be willing to do so.

Facing cancer is not an easy task, if I told you each and every one of my adventures throughout the treatment, the obstacles that I had to jump would need at least ten pages, that is simply not my intention. What I am interested in sharing with you are the main teachings that this experience brought me as a gift:

  1. Just for today”: this is very similar to the key phrase of the twelve step method of Alcoholics Anonymous, I invite you to live alone for today so that at the end of the day we say “Today was worth living”This does not mean that we intend to cancel any type of feeling or emotion that makes us feel sad, angry, rage or similar, because that is also what life is about, even if we strive to have an always happy life, situations will come that will move our world , it will put us to the test and all kinds of feelings will come to the fore. The question is: what do I do with those feelings? It is up to us if we transform the experience in such a way that they make us grow as people.
  2. “It’s me but also you”: Illnesses that require long and sometimes aggressive treatment are experienced by the sick and their families and friends. If you are the patient, keep in mind that you are not alone in the process that there are people who are going through it together with you, so they also have bad spells with a sway of emotions as valid and important as the ones you are experiencing. Now if you are that family member or friend of the patient, avoid pity, offer your support and do not feel bad if at some point they reject it, sometimes the intensity of the moment makes the patient unable to adequately handle their feelings. Finally, both parties keep one thing in mind: “Everything happens and that too will happen.”
  3. “All help is good”: I am convinced that the best way to combat diseases is through the research and development of medicines for their cure, so I invite you to donate a little money at least once a year to a cause that collaborates with research . It is very nice to put photos of profiles with pink, yellow or other color ties, but that will not solve the problem. It is true that it helps to make diseases visible but if we want to end them we must go beyond that and the best way is by donating or buying anything that is destined for the research and development of medicines.
  4. Eat, love and pray “: This phrase that became famous thanks to the film starring Julia Roberts is fantastic, but I have to confess that I have never managed to finish seeing it for one reason or another I do not interrupt it. However cancer made me understand the importance of taste with intensity the food that life offers us both physically and spiritually, that the best way to take advantage of this life is lovingwith all our strength, starting with oneself to continue with others and finally the key to truly overcome any disease is trusting truly in what we believe, in my case I declare myself a believer in God, in that there is a supreme being who loves me in such a way that he only wants the best for me and mine, one day I decided to put my life in his hands, that He I was in control of everything and, as they say, “I was lazy and cooperating”.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What I do know is that the day I leave this world I will be calm because I am living the best I can with what I have. That the best thing I can do for my son, husband, family and friends is to leave life experiences so that, when they remember me, a smile will be drawn on their faces, they will laugh the odd laugh, that if a tear rolls over their cheeks savor them on your lips, have your favorite drink and toast how wonderful it is to live.

I hope that science advances in such a way that the meaning of the word cancer is solely and exclusively the name of one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac.

I am not Cancer, I am Capricorn - Paola Sandoval

* Degree in Industrial Relations and Master in Administration. He has more than 15 years of experience in human resources working in National and International companies and 10 years of experience as a teacher in administrative careers. She is a consultant in medium and small companies. Member of the Communication Coordination in the Global Mx Network, Spain Chapter.

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“I’m not a Cancer, I’m a Capricorn”: the brave testimony of a Mexican woman in Spain