MY STORY ( LEAP OF FAITH )
I’m the kind of outgoing person who is full of energy and loves sports so much, especially swimming. But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, my whole life changed. I felt I was drowning in a deep ocean and felt so alone struggling and in desperate need of help.
I had a lumpectomy, four cycles of chemotherapy, 38 days of radiation, lost my hair, and ended taking tamoxifen for five years, until October 2009. During this journey, I told myself I will not allow cancer to ruin or mess up my life. I will not allow cancer to knock me down completely. I will beat cancer because I am a winner. I will get my life back and enjoy it to the fullest. I’m in remission now but still riding a roller coaster, struggling and fighting with my diabetes and kidney problems, but I still keep moving forward.
WHAT CANCER HAS TAUGHT ME
Humility and faith in God are two lessons I learned from cancer. Through dealing with some government workers, I learned to be humble and diplomatic, forgiving of their insensitivity. I also forgave my then-landlady who practically kicked me out for fear of being responsible for me because I was without any family locally.
My faith in God comforted me; with Him beside me, nothing is impossible. I kept a positive attitude despite all adversity because God kept me close to His side. I am blessed. I am well taken care of by my medical family and hold onto the love I get from family and friends. I promised myself to give back to the hospital where I was treated and to the support groups that helped me during my journey. My passion for the water and the gift of life I have been given are the main reasons I was encouraged and motivated to form and lead our Paddle for the Cure Dragon Boat Team. In this way I can inspire other survivors to be active and join the race. We are athletes of various skill levels and get the benefits from paddling along with enjoying the sport of dragon boating. Here, we make friends with my fellow “Pink Sisters” whose stories inspired me. I learned a lot from them.
When asked how I beat cancer, all I can say is God fought my battle.
I believe at the end of the dark tunnel there is always light and I can get through anything. I am thankful for being transformed into a better, stronger person, helping me achieve my highest potential so that I can aid underserved women like I and help fund research to find the cures for breast cancer.
I received my diagnosis in May of 2014 and my final treatment in September 2014. I celebrated my first year as a breast cancer survivor on the dragon Boat with my survivor teammates.
I was attracted to dragon boat racing so as to build up my endurance, focus on re-defining my upper-body and strengthening my core.
In Chinese tradition the dragon rules water on earth. The dragon rules rivers, lakes and seas. The dragon also dominates the waters of the heavens, clouds, mists and rains. Therefore I believe the dragon represents the tears we use to wash away our pain so we can go on with spirit, strength and vitality.
I paddle the racing dragon boat, I am part of the team, and I am part of the cure.
My journey started when I was diagnosed on March 14, 2001. During the initial stages, I was told to undergo lumpectomy along with four rounds of chemo and 33 days of radiation. During that time, I have been prescribed with medications (Femara) for 5 years to prevent any metastatic possibilities and any further complications.
As a cancer survivor, I have lived a hopeful and positive life in spite of the challenges and adversities that gave me courage to lead a normal life. In October of 2015, I received a questionable mammogram which required immediate attention. When I received the results from the stereotactic biopsy, I was told that my cancer has returned on the same breast. This time I chose mastectomy with breast reconstruction and I have one more surgery to go. I am looking forward to the time that I can hopefully put these challenges behind me.
I am still struggling with the effects of these diagnoses, both mentally and physically, but life goes on. But I am sure that with the help and support of my friends, family and fellow survivors – this will be able to get through it.
In my search for a community of like-minded folks advocating cancer recovery, I have found Paddle for the Cure a unique organization focused on water sports. I want to join the dragon boating festivities which is a great means to unite all supporters and survivors in order to raise awareness and fulfill the urgent needs of cancer research and our road to recovery.
LOOKING PAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
After my lumpectomy and chemo treatments and radiation in 1999-2000, I was determined to consider myself well. One way was to begin using the past tense in my language: I decided to use the phrase, ‘I had cancer,’ instead of I have cancer.’ To do this, I needed an end point to my treatment, a before and after moment. My daughters and husband and family and friends helped me.
My treatments ended in the fall of 2000, just at the time of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. I decided to go to the Mikveh, the ritual bath according to Jewish law. Though this immersion is not traditionally related to disease, I discussed this with those in charge at the synagogue and was given permission to do this. My daughters contacted female friends and family, and invited them to write a short poem or note to me, telling me why I am/was important in their lives. Then we all gathered at the Mikveh, where only my daughters did observe me ‘immerse’ and say the appropriate prayer, after which the woman in charge announced that I had immersed and recited correctly. Afterwards, we convened in a side room at the synagogue, where my female friends and family were gathered for cookies and tea, and they each read their notes to me; many tears were shed, of happiness and gratitude.
Afterwards, in a short caravan of cars, we drove to my home, where my husband and the other men in the family had gathered to wait for us in our Sukkah. From time to time through the intervening years, I’ve read and re-read these heartfelt notes, and realize how much this ceremony came to define how I felt about myself and my healing.
Through the years I’ve looked for exercise and diet change to enhance my healing. I swim a lot and when I saw the Dragon Boat program as am option for survivors, I decided this would be great to add to my routine. Though I am not a regular participant, I found each session I attended very enjoyable, refreshing, and life affirming.
Hi, my name is Maria. I’m a two-time cancer survivor. Cancer might have taken a piece of me, but it never took my spirit. What gives me strength are my students and my passion for dancing.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I was in shock, but I never asked, “why me”? I just asked my doctor a question: “now what”? He briefly explained what was going to happen: lumpectomy and probably chemotherapy. But it turned out to be more complicated than we thought… I needed a mastectomy because the cancer spread.
Right then I decided, with my husband, that I wanted to go home to Brazil to see my family; I had no guarantee of what was going to happen after surgery. I had a wonderful time with my family. Nobody knew what I was going through. I simply didn’t say anything to anybody; I didn’t want to worry them. This was a secret between my husband, and me for now.
Back home to NY my beautiful dog Luka passed away. The following day I went to the hospital for my surgeries: a mastectomy and reconstruction. Both procedures were successful and I’m very thankful for my wonderful doctors.
My oncologist decided to put me through chemo plus anastrozole (Arimidex). Thanks to God I was fine! Even with my baldhead I was able to teach my classes. And my students would even make comments such as, “oh I love your style”! They didn’t have any idea that my hair fell out because of the chemo.
I am lucky my head has a good shape.
I thought I was going to be so skinny after chemo, but instead I gained more than 20 pounds. I was eating like crazy; the food tasted disgusting but I ate it anyway.
3 years later cancer came back on the same side on my lymph nodes.
And I asked my doctor again: “now what”? He told me this time my treatment had to be more aggressive because my cancer was more aggressive; so more chemo and radiation.
So far, so good, it has been almost 7 years and I’m cancer-free.
I’m a survivor and I love to exercise. Paddle for the Cure helps me to accomplish that. We have fun and meet a lot of nice people.
I want to thank to my husband for being there and taking such good care of me. Like that song says, “don’t worry, be happy” – that’s my life.
What Cancer has taught me: Cancer has taught me not to sweat the small things. Examples like dishes in the sink, laundry not done. It doesn’t matter… What cancer taught me is to appreciate another day. To see the sunrise and set. To spend time with people who truly love AND appreciate me. Just for me not for what I have or who I know.
Life is a gift for us to make our own choices. We are brought into this world with nothing and we leave the world the same way, “with nothing.” Cancer taught me that all the stuff you accumulate throughout the years are stuff. It doesn’t mean the same to them as it did to you. But what matters is love…
It doesn’t come with a price tag and no one can take it from you. Cancer taught me the meaning of unconditional love!
I chose Dragon Boating because of my sister Vivian Rivera who was also diagnosed with cancer but who’s already with Him now. It was my sister’s adventure and passion to be active. It was her wish and mine to fulfill before she passed away.
– Maria Crespo
Maria is a cervical cancer survivor and her sister is the founder of The Chosen Butterfly. She has been a big part of Paddle For The Cure NYC’s growth in the past and she was also a member of the PFC Board as our Fundraising Committee Head until she moved back home to prioritize her health.
Leslie Riddle has been a Junior Miss, Miss Texas Teen, finalist for Miss Texas, Cosmos Soccer Team Cheerleader, a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall and traveled the world with Broadway shows.⠀
Leslie appeared in numerous television shows, commercials and films, traveled the US judging dance competitions, emceeing, choreographing, coaching and coordinating pageants and ran the New York City Miss Hawaiian Tropic Pageant for 10 years.⠀ ⠀
Leslie has served on the board of directors for the Radio City Music Hall Rockette Alumnae, volunteers for numerous charity events, raises thousands of dollars for animal charities and manages the career of her little Yorkipoo, Puccini! ⠀
On top of all of that, Leslie is also a 16 year breast cancer survivor and she’s always happy to be working with Paddle for the Cure NYC! We love her so much. We are so thankful for Leslie! ️⠀
Belinda Rosales is a Registered Nurse who has dedicated most of her career in the NYC Health+ Hospital health care system. She came to New York City as a young nurse from the Philippines and started working in a medical surgical unit. As the years went by, she raised her two children and worked in various progressive positions and specialties as her interests changed. She has worked in Discharge Planning, Health Information System, Nursing Recruitment and Retention, Case Management and Nursing Administration.
Currently she is an Assistant Director in the Quality Management Department of Elmhurst Hospital. On her free time Belinda is a Journalist who loves to write on various topics. She was the recipient of a Health Reporting Fellowship from the Center for Community and Ethnic Media (CCEM) in 2018. Her articles can be found at The FilAm, a print and online magazine. Belinda had two aunts who had breast cancer and another aunt who had abdominal cancer. She herself had thyroid cancer in 2017 which was thankfully detected early.
An avid supporter of the Paddle for the Cure NYC, Belinda enjoys water activities as it reminds her of her childhood summers with her grandparents who lived near the water.
Annie Urag was born to a family of 9, in which 6 of them are in the medical field. Thanks to her dad who was a very successful businessman, he was able to send Annie and her siblings to one of the best schools in the Philippines. ⠀
Annie came to New York to forget or mend her since no one in her family was here in the US. Through honest hard work, she was able to get her papers and worked as a babysitter and as a personal assistant. ⠀
While working on her papers, she kept herself busy by going to school in FIT at night taking a degree in pattern making and designing. She eventually wound up working in Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan for almost a year as a sales associate which she never liked. ⠀
Later on, a friend of hers introduced her to a friend who worked as a Dietitian in Kings County. She worked there as an inpatient from January 1992 to September of 2000. She then moved here In Elmhurst Hospital later that year because it’s closer to home and she would be able to monitor all the treatments that her son was receiving at that time. She started as an inpatient dietitian covering all units and sometimes they assigned her in outpatient especially in Women’s health. ⠀
In 2003, Annie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. ⠀
After a couple of years, Annie was done with cancer, she was diagnosed with Asthma and in early 2011, she was also diagnosed with T2DM. With God’s grace and her knowledge in nutrition, she is still here as a Survivor.⠀
She’s still here at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst as a level 2 dietitian. Annie is active in her parish being a lector for 8 years now and she is also a member at large of the Lourdes organization. ⠀
As a survivor herself, she knows how her patients feel. Annie believes that family has taught her that God is your ultimate savior and that with a healthy lifestyle, one will be able to survive.
After facing aggressive Breast Cancer in her late 20’s, Carleen Moscati, realized that she REALLY wanted to live. With her newfound perspective on the value of living a fulfilling life, she wanted to make her mark and live hers to the absolute fullest but soon hit a dead end. Eventually, she started Legacy Lifetime and dedicating her time to share her newfound knowledge to guide other people towards living a more holistic and fulfilling life. She spends her life helping others to overcome Major Life Obstacles [M-LOs], discover their truth, Live Their LEGACY, and Become Their Greatest Self.
Carleen believes wholeheartedly in the power of the human spirit and it’s ability to actualize it’s full potential. She utilizes principles of Holism, Life Balance and Conscious Connection to help empower and guide Creators, Innovators, and Healers on their journey to the lifestyle they truly desire.