Pueblo resident keeps her head high after surviving breast cancer
Rebecca Sandoval-Gonzales was not supposed to make it this far. Becky, as she is known to her friends, family and supporters who make up Team Becky, is a survivor. A survivor of an aggressive breast cancer that nearly took her life, much like cancer had taken the lives of her father, mother, aunt, uncle and best friend.
“On April 27, 2013 while taking a shower I found a two-inch long lump in my left breast,” said Sandoval-Gonzales, 44, who was 40 the day she found the lump and knew immediately with her family history that such a lump was something she needed to get checked out. “I called my primary care physician and she got me in the next morning.”
After going in for a mammogram, Sandoval-Gonzales received word that something had been found and she would need to go in for a biopsy.
“And I thought, ‘okay, we’re going to do this,’” she said. “On May 6, 2013 I was in a hospital room again for a biopsy.”
After watching her biopsy, Sandoval-Gonzales waited for news regarding the results. As the hours ticked by the following day, she began to relax.
“I figured no news is good news and I hadn’t heard anything,” she said. “At 5:30 that evening my youngest son, who was seven at the time, came running in with the phone saying, ‘mommy, mommy your doctor’s on the phone.’”
No news, as it turned out, wasn’t so good.
“It was my primary care physician and she told me, ‘I wish I had better news, but you have breast cancer,’” Sandoval-Gonzales said. “I was just thinking, ‘okay.’”
The tumor was aggressive, so the treatment needed to be as well. In a whirlwind of hospitals and doctor visits, Sandoval-Gonzales received a multitude of tests to diagnose just how serious the cancer was.
“My tests came back that I had what is referred to as triple negative breast cancer,” she said, referring to a form of cancer that can be aggressive and more likely to recur than other subtypes of breast cancer. “I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.”
According to a 2007 study of 50,000 women, 77 percent of women with triple negative beast cancer survived at least five years, compared with 93 percent of women with other breast cancer types. To complicate matters, Sandoval-Gonzales was also made aware that she carries the BRCA gene, the hereditary form of breast cancer.
With all that on her shoulders, Sandoval-Gonzales went in for her first round of chemotherapy.
“I would go to church before chemotherapy,” she said. “My priest would pray for me and my family and then I would go to the Springs for chemotherapy.”
After her first round of chemo, something went wrong.
“There was a day that I was sitting down and I saw bright flashes of light that were just intense and that’s the last thing that I remember,” she said. “From what I’m told I was standing in front of my son who was 10 at the time and went into full cardiac arrest.”
The chemo had eaten away at her colon causing it to become ischemic. After that episode the entire community began to support “Team Becky.” Shirts were sold and worn at fundraisers, on public teams, neighbors brought months worth of food to feed Becky and her family and one friend even took the time to decorate her front porch.
“People just supported me,” she said. “I wasn’t going to die of cancer and I made jokes about it all the way.”
Sandoval-Gonzales now celebrates her “Cancerversary” on December 31. This year will mark the fourth year since she completed her radiation treatments.
“I did it all thinking that I was blessed to have cancer, because I got to share the good, the bad and the ugly with everybody around,” she said. “I am moving towards making it to five years. Once you hit that five-year mark your odds of beating cancer improve drastically.”