By Drew Carr, Statesman Content Marketing
Enduring cancer twice requires more than advanced treatment and smart medical teams. It takes a community of support – caring, eager to help, and nearby.
Just ask Sarah Martinez.
Five years after a valiant and successful breast cancer fight, Sarah was charging full steam ahead with her life, working on a doctoral degree in educational leadership. Then, just five weeks after completing the fifth year of follow-up hormone treatment, Sarah discovered a lump in her armpit (axilla). She was diagnosed with Stage IIIC breast cancer in February 2017.
She was diagnosed with Stage IIIC breast cancer in February 2017.
For treatment, she returned to Texas Oncology and Dr. Lakshmi “Bala” Balasubramanian, beginning with intense chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radiation treatment.
“Dr. Bala is wonderful,” said Sarah. “She’s very straightforward. She knows I have an analytical side, and that I need the facts and numbers, and she’s been very caring in the way that she doles that out to me.”
On the first day of chemo treatment, on her second time around with cancer, Sarah’s husband reminded her, “You are one day closer to your cure.” That simple statement gave her perspective and has helped carry her through the last several months of cancer treatments.
It’s this message of inspiration and encouragement that Sarah wants to share with other women. While every journey is different, Sarah says that remaining grateful for your blessings is a great place to start.
“No matter what you’re going through, if you’re able to open up your heart to the blessings that surround you, you’ll receive them tenfold,” said Sarah. “And it’s just been an incredible experience.”
Sarah’s first cancer diagnosis came the week before Christmas 2012. Sarah had undergone a biopsy the previous week, and her doctor called to share the life-altering results. Sarah underwent a bilateral mastectomy, followed by breast reconstruction surgery and five years of hormone therapy.
Her current cancer treatment has been especially challenging. Surgery and 6 ½ weeks of radiation to the previously reconstructed breast followed five months of chemotherapy, which included doxorubicin, a treatment known as “the red devil,” because of the color of the medication and the often difficult side effects.
While the process has been painful, Sarah says the Texas Oncology made her visits warm and inviting.
“The nurses at Texas Oncology in Cedar Park are amazing. I actually miss them,” said Sarah. “I cried on my last day of chemo. And I think most of that was just feeling like I was losing a part of myself, because we had been together for five months and they had taken such good care of me.”
Sarah found similar compassion outside the clinic, including among classmates and teachers at Concordia University, where’s she working on a doctoral degree. She wrote all 16 of her classmates informing them of her diagnosis, and her determination to join them in walking across the stage at graduation in two years.
“For the first class that I went in after starting chemo, they had changed the seating arrangement so that I had a seat away from everyone else,” said Sarah. “They disinfected the table for me, and had hand sanitizer, tissues and health supplies waiting at the table.”
She’s also received an outpouring of support from her church and coworkers.
“My church family has been amazing also, supporting me and holding me up in prayer,” said Sarah. “My husband and I have also both worked in the Leander ISD for quite a long time, and the support that we’ve received here has been nothing short of incredible.”
Most importantly, Sarah’s loving, devoted family walked alongside her for every step of both rounds of her breast cancer journey.
“I’m so blessed,” said Sarah. “Through this entire journey—the one five years ago and then this continuation now—I feel nothing but blessed. I have a great family who has been there for me every step of the way. My husband, my children and my extended family and friends have all been an amazing support throughout this journey.”
Sarah says that going through the process of treating breast cancer twice has strengthened her, most notably in her faith.
“I think I’m being called to demonstrate that you can get through anything that happens with faith,” said Sarah. “You can be positive, hopeful and grateful no matter what you’re going through.”
Because of her unique journey, Sarah now looks at cancer — which is often described as a “fight” — through a different lens.
“To me it’s kind of the opposite of a fight. It’s accepting what’s happening, being open to the amazing advances they’ve made in treatment that are accessible through Texas Oncology, being open to following the path that’s being laid out before you, and being faithful to that,” said Sarah. “So, through all of this, I try to live every day through a spirit of gratitude.”
For more information on breast cancer symptoms, risk factors and treatment options, visit www.TexasOncology.com.