Five years ago, while living in Mexico, Samantha Anzaldua felt lumps in her breasts. Doctors blamed them on birth control pills and suggested she stop taking them. That seemed to help. But in November 2016, now living in the United States, she started taking birth control pills again. The lumps returned, bigger this time. She stopped using the pill, but the lumps remained.
Her doctor ordered an ultrasound, then a biopsy. The lumps were cancerous.
“I was numb. I didn’t know what to feel,” she remembers. Samantha was just 25 at the time. Her situation started to sink in when the doctor explained chemotherapy.
She thought the hardest thing would be losing her hair, but she also lost most of her friends. “They’re young and party a lot. They knew I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, so they stopped calling.” The people who stayed by her side were her parents, some of her aunts and uncles, and her 9-year-old son, Oswaldo.
Samantha started chemotherapy at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. The night before she was scheduled for a mastectomy of her left breast, she decided not to have the procedure. She thought she had lost enough. She would live with the tumor. Then she thought of her son and decided to live for him. She had the surgery.
“Being glamorous every day does not bring happiness,” she says. “Being healthy and with my family is true happiness.”
She prayed for strength and God gave it to her. “The day after the surgery, I was walking and felt no pain.” A week later, she was sitting for this interview, praising her caregivers and encouraging people not to think of cancer and death in the same breath. “There are treatments,” she says. “There is hope.”
Other than the treatment and reconstructive surgery planned for her, Samantha doesn’t think about the future. “I focus on the present and live day by day. I want to be available to my son.
“I know this is the toughest part of my life. After going through cancer treatment, losing my hair and my breast, I can handle anything. I know how strong I am. I didn’t think it was within me to be a warrior. Even though I lost people, I survived.”