photos and story by: Ricky Jimenez Carrasco
On Saturday, hundreds of big, bad bikers were spotted cruising the streets of the Mission valley in pink shirts, pink bandanas, even pink goatees. More than just a fashion statement, the bikers wore pink to show their solidarity for one of their own overcoming her battle with breast cancer. The Making Strides against Breast Cancer charity run was held in honor of Isela Reyes. It’s been only a few years since Isela received the news that she had been diagnosed. With the help from her friends, family, and doctors, Isela is currently in remission and doing much better.
At its worst, Isela’s cancer had reached Stage IV, where the cancer has metastasized, but where it is still treatable. She elected to have a bilateral mastectomy. She says that the most painful part of her ordeal was the change in appearance. “From one day to another the change is drastic. People react to the loss of hair and all the other things that can change with the cancer and then treatment. My family was very supportive. They never allowed me to think too much about and dwell on it.” She emphasized that her family was a big part of her recovery. “We really didn’t cry much. They said, let’s just make the best of it and let’s move on. I had a lot of surgeries and procedures, but we still had our regular cookouts and parties.”
One thing that Isela would advise for new patients is to get educated about their condition. “I asked alot of questions. Friends bought me books. The doctors gave me alot of information. I would get sad because I would read about the side effects of the medicines, but it was better to know what I could expect to happen. It was scary, but I just took it a day at a time.”
Martha Solis, from the American Cancer Society office in El Paso, also places importance on education. She explained the role of the ACS in a patient’s treatment. “We provide each patient with a specific portfolio that lays out the doctor’s orders, information of nutrition, chemotherapy, radiation, and other forms of treatment. We also have support groups and mentors for the patients. Isela wanted to know what to expect, and what better way than to meet other survivors to give guidance. Isela is already paying it back by providing support to newer patients.”
The key to a faster recovery rate and survivability to any cancer is early detection and education about one’s own health. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, and it can be hereditary. “We want to stress that each woman do their self exams as soon as she is sexually active. As a woman, you have to get your monthly exams on top of your yearly doctor’s exams, no later than starting at age 21.”
Solis applauded Isela’s education and preparation as being essential to her recovery. “She got the proper information, but more important was that she got checked and detected early. The earlier you get detected, the quicker you can get treatment.
The biker run on Saturday raised around $2000, all that will be donated to the El Paso American Cancer Society. Terry Almanzar helped to organize the run in honor of Isela, her cousin. “She was diagnosed in 2010. When she started getting better, we decided to start this run last year. Now that she’s in full remission, we decided to continue the run to continue to bring awareness to the community.” The money will be used to get wigs, lymphedema sleeves, prosthesis, and treatment in general. When asked if she had any other comments about her charity run, Isela simply said, “It’s a blessing to be here. I’d like to thank all the bikers and sponsors for sharing their time and donations.”
With that said, Isela hopped onto her husband’s Harley and rode off with the rest of her bikers and continued the way she’s dealt with this ordeal: with a smile and surrounded by friends and family.
For more information about breast cancer and cancer in general: Call the El Paso office of the American Cancer Society at 915-633-1231 or go to www.cancer.org.