Against All Odds


Photo courtesy of Leah Whetstone

Which one of these women has cancer?


Every year since 1995, the entire month of October is dedicated to breast cancer awareness, with pink accessories flooding the scene.


Roughly 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in the course of their life. About 39,510 woman will die from breast cancer. As a result, there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. Yet, so many others not diagnosed are affected by this disease.


“It has affected my family, I can name three members of my family who have died of cancer. It affects husbands, mothers, sons, daughters, teachers, students, friends, co-workers, sounds silly but even pets. Its so big and its all cancer,” Leah Whetstone said.


Here at school there are faculty who are diagnosed. In particular there are two women from the cafeteria staff who are fighting this disease.


“It started in November, 2005 and lasted almost a year. After that it cleared for almost six and a half years until I was re-diagnosed in August 2012. Recurrence is what its called,” Elvira Padilla said.


Second in charge in the cafeteria, Elvira Padilla wasn’t the only one battling for her life.


“In 2006 I was diagnosed, a year in treatment then remission for two years and 11 months. After almost two years of battle for the second round, it can’t be stopped, only calmed,” Irma Espinoza said.


Both women are able to overcome all the struggles and trials that come with having this disease, though each one has their own method of doing so.


“With friends and family support, and staying positive, it’s easy to overcome! It’s not hard, but God, focus on Him, asking to give me strength, that’s my testimony! To be an example to others because to me, this is not an illness. I think God prepared me for this, it redirected me and my family back to him,” Padilla said.


“Anti-depressants, pain pills, I was very angry when it came back. One of the side effects is joint pains. But with a lot of prayer and support from family and friends, because there are days where I don’t want to see the light of day,” Espinoza said.


Photo courtesy of Leah Whetstone

In 2012, Team Vida was formed, Vida meaning life in Spanish. Representing both Elvira and Irma, the team was formed to fight cancer and to bring awareness. The team, to be a part of Susan G. Coleman race for the cure, where the money raised would go to spread awareness. The first walk for Team Vida was made up of 50 team members, with a huge impact of $2,000 raised.


With all they do to fight this disease and bring awareness, it is extraordinary to see how strong these women can be.


“Their strength is unbelievable,” Whetstone said.


Photo by Alexander Sanchez

While getting the camera to shoot photos for the interview, cafeteria manager Leah Whetstone said her appearance wasn’t the best. She Mentioned how her hair was all over the place from work and realizing this became regretful and emotional.


“I’m complaining about how my hair is out of whack and there they are, it’s not right. It’s about being aware. That’s why you should stop and think, they’re there fighting for their lives and we’re so used to complaining about everyday things. People complain so much for the littlest things, gas is high, we’re out of milk, etc., in comparison to a mother having to fight this disease fighting for her life,” Whetstone said.


Photo by Alexander Sanchez

Answering the original question, both women have cancer. Although one has a full head of hair and the other does not, both undergo chemo therapy and treatment. Not all cancer patients lose their hair, it all depends on the medications they are taking, how frequent dosages are, and how aggressive the treatment is.


Not only the month of October, but everyday people should spread awareness for breast cancer and for all other types of cancer, for all the men, women, and children who are fighting this disease. Whether people are wearing pink or not, lets fight! Have Vida!

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