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Norma Mendez

A car accident may have saved Norma Mendez’ life. Emergency Room physicians ordered an MRI that indicated tumors. She went to her Harris Health System primary care physician and was referred for a mammogram and an ultrasound. She had stage III cancer in her right breast.

Norma was just 39 years old. “I felt like my life was ending when the doctor told me it was advanced cancer,” she remembers.

At Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, she had five months of chemotherapy and a right breast mastectomy. She had radiation therapy at Smith Clinic. She’s in remission now and will take medication for three years.

She says her care was excellent. “The whole treatment process was amazing. The doctors talked with me, and I trusted them. LBJ became my second home.”

Her boys, ages 15, 13 and 5, were her hope and strength. She was always honest with them, so they knew what was going on. She tried to keep going, to continue cleaning houses, but she learned a valuable lesson: to care for herself.

She changed her lifestyle. “The biggest change was that I quit drinking sodas and quit eating sweets. Now I drink more water and eat more greens. I exercise more. I walk or jog for an hour.”

Norma encourages other cancer patients to “have hope, have faith. Get up, and know you will survive.” The hardest part for her was losing her hair. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.

“I’m still amazed I was diagnosed so young. But it was a good thing because I changed my outlook on life. I used to have a very strong personality with my family. Now I’m more humble. I learned to be more open and spend quality time with my family. I value my time with others.

“I’m a new person. I’m eager to see how my hair will grow. I’m eager to live and not take life for granted.”