When Angeles Almuna first got the news that she had breast cancer, she thought, “Wow, I’m going to die.”
The Chile-born, Miami-based stylist, artist, photographer, dancer was diagnosed with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer in June 2015 at the age of 45. She remembers her doctor saying, at the time, “Your life is going to change. But you are in good hands.”
Because breast cancer had impacted her family, and her grandmother passed away from the disease, those words didn’t bring her any immediate comfort. Plus, she was still dealing with the emotional toll of a divorce two years prior. In trying to move on and keep her mind off that experience by staying busy, she had put off her annual mammograms and exams.
“For two years, I was like, ‘I’m going to do my mammogram next month,’” she said. “I’ve learned that you need to listen to your body and go to the doctor and talk with someone, and I always say that to my friends now.”
Her treatment started with chemotherapy, followed by a mastectomy and lymph node removal and then radiation.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I tried to be strong. I tried to be very positive. And I tried to learn through the whole process, but I got depressed––from pain, from loneliness.”
Seeing a therapist helped her feel stronger and more motivated during her treatment. Today, she takes oral chemotherapy (for at least the next three years), and she gets regular scans.
Though treatment was difficult, she eventually realized how true her doctor’s initial words were. Her life had changed, and, in some unexpected ways, for the better.
Through the power of social media, she started sharing her story publicly and connected with people all around the world, who sent her words of encouragement during treatment.
“Those responses for me—I was in shock. I was so happy. That was the medicine I needed,” she said.
After getting through the bulk of active treatment Angeles wanted to find a way to say thank you to everyone who had been there for her from the start. What started as a party for friends and family, has since turned into an annual fundraiser for BCRF called “Fashion Strikes Cancer” at the Miami Design District. Since 2018, she has raised more than $27,000 for research.
“I feel like if I can do something organic in my community, I can help communicate to people that research is the key to end breast cancer,” she said.
Read more stories from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.
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