Breast cancer survivor Yolanda Rodriguez visited SJC Brooklyn last week to share her story and encourage women to prioritize their health.
Before Rodriguez’s life-changing diagnosis she often participated in 5K charity walks and wore pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month — but she never imagined she would one day have a personal battle with the disease.
Rodriguez went for her annual mammogram a little more than six years ago and received a clean bill of health for a doctor. But about a half-year after that check-up, she noticed a lump on her breast. Rodriguez tried not to think of it as a major concern at first, but a biopsy ultimately confirmed her fear: she had breast cancer.
“I’m here — six years later — to tell you, ‘Yeah, it can happen to anyone, and at anytime,'” said Rodriguez, as she sat on a chair in front of an audience of students, faculty and staff on Oct. 16 in the Tuohy Hall student lounge.
Rodriguez had the emotional support of two of her doctors — Dr. Millie Diaz and Dr. Claudya Morin of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn — as she held back tears, recounting her story.
She told the audience about the trials and tribulations she endured while getting second opinions, breaking the news of her cancer to her family and preparing to lose her hair during chemotherapy treatments.
Keeping a Positive Spirit
Despite the emotional toll of Rodriguez’s cancer, she refused to let the disease get the best of her.
Throughout her journey, she recited a comforting motto: “I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.”
Now in remission, Rodriguez is an advocate for women’s health. She tells her story to encourage other women to get mammograms, do self-breast exams and to pay close attention to their bodies.
“I want you ladies to do everything you can to make sure you don’t go through what I did,” Rodriguez said.
Karma Dolma, a senior therapeutic recreation major, and president of SJC Brooklyn’s Recreation Club, said she was inspired by Rodriguez’s story. Her club sponsored the event in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I thought we had a great turnout and that the event was a great success,” Dolma said. “I am grateful and honored to have had her — along with her amazing health team from Maimonides Hospital — on our campus. We learned a lot about the risk factors and prevention strategies of breast cancer.”