Consuelo Valencia felt a lump in her breast after her first child was born. Since she was dealing with post-partum depression, she thought the small swelling was associated with not being able to nurse. Several years later, the mother of three boys was told the lump was cancerous. She had surgery and treatment in Mexico. Now that she lives in Houston, she has all her follow-up visits at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.
Her husband Juan, a colon cancer survivor, had all his treatment at LBJ. “Cancer is the worse word you’ll ever hear,” he says. “We are lucky to be survivors. Some people are not so lucky.”
Consuelo is part of the hospital’s Survivor’s Clinic for patients who no longer need active treatment. November will mark her five-year survival, and she plans to celebrate.
“Since I had cancer, I’m always happy,” she says. “I celebrate more. When you’re healthy, you don’t think about how important life and family are. You think you need stuff. Cancer changes your life.”
She has plenty of advice for us.
“Go to the doctor before you get cancer. Get regular check-ups. Avoid stress. Get plenty of exercise. Eat good food.”
Consuelo follows her own advice. She avoids sugar, red meat and all processed food. She refuses to take vitamin supplements, and believes the best way to get proper vitamins and minerals is through natural foods. A favorite drink is a smoothie she makes from cactus, aloe vera, fruit and pure honey. (They bring five-gallon buckets of honeycomb home when they visit Mexico.)
She walks a lot, dances, bikes and goes to the gym often. Exercise helps her keep her body healthy and avoid stress. “I pray a lot; God is the only one who can help.
“I don’t know if my cancer will come back. God has the last word. I live my life like it’s the last day.”
Juan agrees. “We enjoy life a lot more now. I take care of her, and she takes care of me.”