identities

She Remembers Feeling A Lump In Her Breast When She Showered And Thought It Was Because Of Her Period. Weeks Later She Was Diagnosed With Cancer

Alexandra Silva can still remember the Monday she discovered the mass that doctors would later diagnosis as breast cancer. She can also easily recall how she initially convinced herself not to panic.

Silva was in the comfort of her home, taking a shower the first time she felt the lump.

Ready?!!??!?! 😀

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“I had just ended my period so I thought it was something related to that,” Silva says. “I told my mom if it was still there by Friday I’d make an appointment. It was still there, so I made an appointment with my general doctor.”

Over the years, Silva had given herself plenty of self-breast exams. Nothing thorough or monthly as she describes them, but frequently enough so that on the day she did discover something she was able to catch it early. Nevertheless, the reality of her diagnosis was quite a blow. Silva was 22 years old, just out of college, and was looking forward to the life she had ahead of her.

“I went into oblivion. I was shocked and my mind went blank,” says Silva about her initial reaction to the diagnosis.

One last birthday celebration! #Cake

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“I also felt a bit numb. It didn’t seem real at all,” Silva says. “I had my whole life planned and in an instant it was up in the air. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive to live out my dreams. I had to go through so many changes,” Silva says about her diagnosis.

Many cancer patients have difficulty coming to terms with the loss of hair associated with chemotherapy, but Silva had a bigger concern.

“I was very at peace with losing my hair, but my breasts [were] another thing.”

Hair loss can be a very real aspect of chemotherapy for most patients diagnosed with breast cancer. For Silva, whose doctor had outlined a first plan of action that began with a double mastectomy, losing her hair wasn’t the hardest part.

“I know it doesn’t make me less of a woman, but it’s hard to feel beautiful when the world throws so many images of breasts in your face,” she says.

After six weeks, she underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and like most breast cancer patients, moved onto radiation. “I was able to take about a two month break before starting my radiation and if I remember correctly, it was 35 rounds. The last step of my journey was my breast reconstruction 10 months after finishing radiation.”

To cope with her diagnosis, Silva joined two local support groups.

Soon after her diagnosis, Silva joined a support circle where women who were also fighting for their lives shared their experiences. Still, the isolation of being a young breast cancer patient in a group of women who who’d already lived through their twenties was wearisome. “[They] definitely helped with the wave of emotions, but I also felt very alone because I was going through cancer at a different stage in life,” she says.

Less than 5% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. are younger than forty. By 40, rates increase and become the highest in women over the age of 70. At 22, Silva was by far the youngest cancer fighter within her group.

An avid musicophile, Silva ended up finding the strength to get through her treatment through music.

Silva showing off the results of her treatment at a Backstreet Boy Concert.  Credit: Alexandra Silva

“I love my family and friends, but music doesn’t ask questions. It doesn’t judge me. It has always been my comfort, so I earned heavily on it during this time,” Silva explains. “I was able to let out aggression and sadness just by turning on my iPod.”

Silva hopes her breast cancer diagnosis will encourage women of all ages to take self-breast exams seriously.

So far, she’s worked to encourage women to perform breast checks by pairing up with the Keep A Breast Foundation.

Even Lady Gaga, her music idol, has been inspired by her story.

Silva after her diagnosis pre-hair loss and mastectomy.                                  Credit: Alexandra Silva

“When I was first diagnosed, the first song that came up on my iPod Shuffle while driving home was a song called ‘Marry the Night,'” Silva says recalling the night Lady Gaga gave her a shout out at her ArtPop tour concert.

“There’s a lyric that goes ‘I’m gonna marry the night. I won’t give up on my life. I’m a warrior queen, live passionately tonight.’

It clicked. I was a warrior queen. I was going to kick the cancer in the fucking ass.

It really gave me the motivation to fight this. So, in my sign I wrote ‘I’m a Warrior Queen, I survived cancer.’ I had put it up a few times during the show with no response. The second to last song was about to start and in an instant she said, ‘What does that sign say?’ I immediately start to cry. She reads it and goes, ‘Well done, bitch!’ She sings part of the song and changes the lyric to say ‘fuck cancer.’ I was BAWLING. I couldn’t believe it. My queen reading my sign. It was a moment I will NEVER forget. And even to this day, talking about it still chokes me up.”

These days, Silva works with children as a substitute teacher. While her personal battle with cancer is far behind her, she recognizes her fight is still ongoing.

It’s been over three years since her diagnosis, but Silva continues to deal with the emotional scars of her battle. “I still struggle with my physical appearance and sometimes it’s extremely difficult to look at myself in the mirror and see this person I don’t recognize.”

The effects of her diagnosis still run with her, but for Silva, cancer has pushed her to live a life worth having. “This experience has made me live life. I work very hard so I can travel and go to shows and do the things that I want to do. And I take huge pride in the fact that I’ve been able to see so many beautiful places.”

For women in their twenties who don’t give themselves regular self-breast checks, Silva has one message.

A year ago today I had my last chemo! In honor of that, I'm taking a #CHECKYOURSELFIE. This symbolizes my commitment to continuing to check myself every month. Now, I challenge you to make the same commitment! Take a selfie with 3 fingers to your breasts & post them with the hashtag #checkyourselfie. Don't forget to tag me & @keepabreast so we can see these photos! Make sure you challenge your friends, too! Guys, don't think I'm not including you! Y'all can get breast cancer, so make sure to do the challenge as well! Again, this is a reminder that young people can get breast cancer. Don't be afraid to check yourself! Make that commitment, it's so important! We are NOT invincible, no matter how much we think we are. #FUCKCANCER #WARRIORQUEEN

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“DO IT! It could literally save your life,” Silva says. “Even though I’m years out of treatment, I still check myself at least once a month. I’m a huge advocate for getting familiar with your body. If you don’t notice any changes, your doctor might not ever know.”

Thank you for inspiring us, Warrior Queen!

Giphy


Being a Boss Chick means life can get busy, make sure you’re staying up to date about the health of your breast by downloading the Keep A Breast’s Check Your Selfie app. Learn about it here!


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re teaming  up with our friends at Keep A Breast to support! Join us in spreading awareness by rockin’ mitú’s BCA collection. All proceeds will directly benefit the Keep-A-Breast #checkyourselfie global campaign, promoting monthly self exams and breast health education through app technology.


Read: These Scary Stats Will (Hopefully) Get You To Your Doctor’s Office For A Mammogram


Self-breast examinations have saved women of all ages, be sure to share this story with your friends to help them take theirs seriously.

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

“If you’re having sex, you’ll likely contract HPV at some point in your life.” That is how one gynecologist explained the sexually transmitted diseases to me, which completely freaked me out. Even though human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus contracted through sexual intercourse, it doesn’t make it less scary when you realize that it’s related to 150 viruses and can lead to cancer for both men and women. While there are vaccines available to prevent the spread of HPV to a broader age group than in previous years, we are finally closer to finding a cure.

A group of primarily female Mexican scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute cured their patients of HPV.

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The team of researchers, led by Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos (pictured above), treated 420 patients from Veracruz and Oaxaca, and 29 from Mexico City. They used “photodynamic therapy” which “is a treatment that involves using a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body” according to their report.

The doctors found extraordinary results through their method of treatment that led to cure 100 percent of the people that had HPV. They also cured 64.3 percent of people infected with HPV that had cancerous cells, and 57.2 percent of people that had cancerous cells without the HPV virus. That last result could mean that a cure for cancer is not far behind.

“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Dr. Gallegos told Radio Guama.

People on social media ecstatically hailed the finding by the Mexicana researchers.

We highly doubt President Trump will ever mention this achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to comment on this remarkable finding.

While there’s more testing that will inevitably take place, we will have to wait and see how long it takes for other researchers and scientists to catch on to their method of treatment.

The fact that a woman-led team discovered this cure is something we should all be applauding.

Hopefully, their research will get more funding so they can further test patients and help educate others about their process.

According to the CDC,  79 million Americans, primarily teens and people in the early 20s, are infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The way to prevent contracting HPV is by getting the vaccine — available for males and females — and by using condoms. However, you can still contract HPV because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not adequately protect against getting HPV.

READ: Here Are A Handful Of Reasons Why We Need To Talk To Latinx Kids About S-E-X

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