Editor's note: In honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Schuyler Sun is publishing a four-week series, "Think Pink," sharing the stories of people who have been affected by breast cancer; this is the final story in the series. Read previously published ones on our website. The Sun's masthead will also be pink in October instead of its normal black to commemorate the month.
Martha Viquez assumed that she was too young to have breast cancer. She rationalized that only those older, like her mother, were susceptible to this disease As it turns out, she was very wrong.
During a long-overdue breast exam in 2017, Viquez learned that there was something abnormal in her breasts. Upon further examination, doctors in Omaha found a mass that Viquez said was about the size of her pinky finger nail.
“It was caught on time,” Viquez said.
Thanks to quick thinking and removal, Viquez had her cancer removed and began the recovery process. She is cancer-free at the moment, and the voyage that her mother took when she had the disease helped Viquez out when she went through it.
“My mom, she struggled with it and she did really well,” Viquez said. “I’m grateful that by watching the things that she suffered through, it’s opened my eyes more to paying attention to stuff.”
She’s now more aware of things like keeping herself in good shape through implementing a solid diet, along with being a little better about exercising. She noted that dealing with the scary situation gave her a little bit of a kick in the behind to live her best life.
“What can you do to make it not come back? Try it all,” Viquez said. “You change your diet, exercise more and try to get your eight hours of sleep. You just take good care of yourself.”
Viquez has plenty of people looking out for her at Goodwill Associates in Columbus, her place of employment. Her co-workers proved to be a source of strength for her as she went through treatment and as she continues to recover.
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“I’m grateful that I have great co-workers that were there for me,” Viquez said. “They said, ‘Hey Martha, if you ever feel down, sad or whatever, you can always talk to us, or if you can’t lift something because of the cancer, you’re more than welcome to just let us know.’ They were always there. It was like a supportive family place where I work.”
One of her co-workers, Alicia Isaguirre, spoke highly of Viquez's character. Some people would find any excuse to not work as hard when they're ill, she said, adding Viquez isn't one to be grouped into this category.
"She never acted like anything was wrong (with her)," Isaguirre said. "From having another family member suffering, I know that she's been through a lot and it's amazing what she still has to do every day to make sure that it doesn't come back. She's still here and she still works hard. She does what she needs to do even on her bad days."
Viquez has done her part to remind her friends about the fact that someone in seemingly good health, feeling no pain, might have breast cancer.
“I was deformed, basically,” Viquez said. “A lot of things changed. I had to go from a regular bra to a sports bra so they look even. I talked to my friends about it and showed them and told them, ‘You know, I guess it doesn’t make a difference what age you are. It can happen to anybody, so you guys need to take care of yourselves.’”
She also made sure that her adult children knew about their risk, even her only male child, considering the fact that their grandmother and mother both had breast cancer. She also wants everyone to do their part in making sure that if they do have breast cancer, that it gets detected and eliminated fast.
“I told my girls, ‘You don’t want to wait until it’s too late,’” Viquez said. “'You have your grandmother with breast cancer and you’ve got me with breast cancer. You guys have to be on top of this. You guys have to make sure that you get your annual checkups and you make sure on the history, you put everything you know about Grandma or me or your dad.’ Even though there’s a lot of yeses and few no’s, it’s OK.
“Make sure you do your yearly checkup or every six months or whatever is required. Follow doctor’s orders and take good care of yourself.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at email@example.com.