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KERI (PART 2)

Others would say, “Don’t Google.” But honestly, I really wanted to know what this is all about. So I would really Google--the whole day, the whole night, for me to really understand and learn more. Like, what are the options in case this doesn't work out?

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EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER

So basically, when I got diagnosed, I was really scared. I'm not sure if I got--can I say, depression? It wasn't hard core depression because Francis was there, and it really helped that my mom was there for me, my dad, my sister.


And the kids were OK. I mean, I am very honest with them because I felt like, why? Why sugarcoat, or why hide it? It's added stress for me to conceal things. So they understand, they know it’s serious, but they also know that I'm doing everything I can to be healthy.

Sometimes the fear is there, and then sometimes I'm like, “I leave it up to God to decide what's going to happen to me.”

I’m so much better than months ago, because I guess after active treatment, hopefully it's over and you can move on. I'm moving forward--but then sometimes I can't help it because sometimes it's still there. But then I just pray, and it helps. It's like, on and off.


Sometimes the fear is there, and then sometimes I'm like, “I leave it up to God to decide what's going to happen to me.” It's a roller coaster. But at the same time, I get my strength also from my friends.


HUNGER FOR INFORMATION AND CONNECTION

Honestly, when I read about survivors online, it helps me a lot. And what I did during, and when I was diagnosed, I was so hungry for information so I would really Google, "Stage 3 survivors," or like the hashtags on #breastcancersurvivors. And I would really reach out to them. I would write them, and they would really motivate me. “This is doable. Don’t worry about it, you'll be OK.” And all those things that really helped me.

There’s this thing called the “gene test” to know if you’re a carrier, like what [Hollywood actress] Angelina Jolie did. Apparently, I'm not a carrier. It's not in my genes, supposedly.
Always grateful

And up to now when I feel scared, what I do, I read their [survivors'] stories--like what they've been through. I save it. I just go through it when I feel sad. Honestly I felt so isolated when I got diagnosed, because none of my friends understand and have been through it. Although, of course they understand--but it's different. I’m the first one in my group of friends who actually got it.


I didn't expect it at 39 [years old], because in my mind older women get it. I was actually surprised that women in their ‘20s can get it. From what I've read, yeah, a few cancer survivors [are] in their ‘20s [got it] as well.

And up to now when I feel scared, what I do, I read their [survivors'] stories--like what they've been through. I save it. I just go through it when I feel sad.

DOES IT RUN IN THE FAMILY?

I'm not sure if it runs in the family, but I’ve had close relatives [who have it]. But then I took the gene test. There’s this thing called the “gene test” to know if you’re a carrier, like what [Hollywood actress] Angelina Jolie did. Apparently, I'm not a carrier. It's not in my genes, supposedly.


STAYING INFORMED

As others would say, “Don’t Google.” But honestly, I really wanted to know what this is all about. So I would really Google--the whole day, the whole night, for me to really understand and learn more. Like, what are the options in case this doesn't work out? What are the other things I can do?” I was able to meet Stage 3 cancer survivors as well, and I got to connect with them.

And all those have been really helpful for me.

19th-year civil wedding anniversary flowers from husband, Mayor Francis Zamora
I would really reach out to them. I would write them, and they would really motivate me. “This is doable. Don’t worry about it, you'll be OK.”

So I would advise them to be proactive. If they have questions, don't just settle for one answer. You know, to research more, if they're not satisfied with their doctor’s answers. I mean, when I read about stuff, I'm able to ask more questions because I understand.

MAINTENANCE

I can't, I'm not sure if I can say, “remission,” because I'm only 17 months out. I hope so. I hope to be cancer-free for a long time. I do my PET scans twice a year, and do my mammograms yearly. I do sonograms twice a year also. But I see my oncologist, Dr. [Francis] Lopez, every three months for a checkup.


I've been active ever since. I would really exercise every day, and that hasn't stopped. In fact, when I was going through chemo, I would walk on my treadmill for 15 minutes, even if it's really hard. It was really hard on my body, but I would feel better after. Now, that’s still what I do. I would do my elliptical, and I'm planning to go back to Pilates.

Night before first surgery
When I read about stuff, I'm able to ask more questions because I understand.

Diet-wise, I'm not so good. I have a sweet tooth, and it's a struggle for me. Although my oncologist said it's OK just as long as it's, you know it's not the whole pint [of ice cream], or you know...Everything in moderation is OK.


HER FEARS

Recurrence, that's number one. I'm trying not to think about it, but yeah, that's my number one fear for now. The kids? You know, honestly, I think they're shy to ask me, but they would say, “You'll be OK, Mom, right? You'll be OK?” I’d say, “Yeah, I’m OK now!” But I tell them to continue to pray for me.

Francis has been there for me since day one. I mean, he's always been there. I felt well taken care of.

Basically, they don’t really ask me a lot [of questions], because I guess I look OK. I mean, I don’t look sick anymore. But during the chemo time, they were very well-behaved, haha. Like, they know, I guess [that] I shouldn't get stressed. Francis has been there for me since day one. I mean, he's always been there. I felt well taken care of. But in terms of what I mean, in terms of understanding what I'm going through, I got that through the survivors online. But he [Francis] was there emotionally, he would pray with me.

Post-surgery, March 2019
Stress is a big factor, but in my case, I don't consider it as one because my personality is, I don’t dwell on my problems.

When I was diagnosed, that was the time of the [Mayoral] campaign--which is even harder for him, and for me, because I was always active in his campaigns. But I couldn't campaign because I was going through chemo. But I'm just glad he won.

HER ADVOCACY

After my active treatment I launched, “Caring Keri.” It’s actually for the women and children, as I was saying, in San Juan--for their well-being. Primarily focusing on breast cancer, we signed a [Memorandum of Agreement] with Cardinal Santos [Memorial Center] to offer free breast care services, and discounted services for them. So there, that’s a start.


THE ROLE STRESS PLAYS

In my readings, it's number one. Stress is a big factor, but in my case, I don't consider it as one because my personality is, I don’t dwell on my problems. I don't know why, but there...I guess it's random--cancer can happen to anyone. And you just have to be more careful and more proactive and take care of our bodies, more vigilant.

Recurrence, that's number one. I'm trying not to think about it, but yeah, that's my number one fear for now.

KNOWING WHAT SHE KNOWS NOW

Live your life to the fullest. Don’t take things for granted. I know it's cliche, but truly, I mean, spend time with what matters most. Because I realized, I don't know...Can you believe after I got diagnosed, I didn't shop for a year? We went to the States, and I didn’t feel like shopping. And Francis was like, are you okay? I really felt like, if I, you know, knock on wood--if I die what’s gonna happen to all my clothes? I mean, do I need to buy more?

Live your life to the fullest, and do things that matter the most. I mean, to you. Don't take things for granted. Ah, you’re making me cry.

Live your life to the fullest, and do things that matter the most. I mean, to you. Don't take things for granted. Ah, you’re making me cry.


READ PART 1 HERE: https://www.middleofalovestory.com/post/keri-part-1


Story of breast cancer warrior, Keri Zamora, founder of Caring Keri, and wife of San Juan Mayor, Francis Zamora

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