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Zonia DeLao

New Year’s Eve, 2018, didn’t go as Zonia DeLao would have planned.

Earlier in the month, she had a regularly scheduled mammogram at El Franco Lee Health Center. Her primary care physician sent her to Smith Clinic for further tests, which included stereotactic and MRI biopsies. Physicians found three lumps, two of them were cancerous.

Zonia received the news on New Year’s Eve. She was cleaning house for one of her long-time clients. “I felt really, really bad,” she remembers. “My client kept telling me, ‘Everything will be fine. Don’t worry.’ But she was crying too.”

Despite her bad news, Zonia cooked and rang in the new year with some of her children and grandchildren. Her four children and four grandchildren are her greatest supporters and encouragers.

She chose to have a mastectomy of her left breast followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. At the time she shared her story, she was in the midst of a month of radiation at Smith Clinic.

Zonia describes her care as “marvelous. Perfect. I don’t think there’s anything better out there. Everything has been perfect. Everybody. My oncologist is a wonderful person.”

Still involved in treatment, Zonia feels good for the most part, but is sometimes tired and has to prioritize her outings. She enjoys eating out and shopping, even if it’s just to look. She lost her husband several years ago and lives alone, but she spends time with her family.

She has no doubt her future is a beautiful one. She looks forward to enjoying her life and her family. She’s also eager to return to work, cleaning homes for six women. “I’ve been working with one woman for 30 years. It’s no longer an employer relationship. All the ladies check up on me. Their houses feel like my house. I love what I do. It’s beautiful to love your work.”

She encourages others to be strong at the diagnosis. “Don’t let it get you down. God gives us strength. If others come out alive, why not us? There are a lot of breast cancer survivors. I’m going to be one of them.”