- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

ELGIN, Ill. (AP) - Elida Cano always was the worrier in the family, constantly overthinking big and little things. Then came the stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis a year ago, and a new attitude.

“I just was not stressing about it,” the 33-year-old Elgin woman said. “It was like, ‘Whatever comes, comes.’ I take it one day at a time. What’s the point of stressing?”

Cano, who currently is cancer-free after going through a double mastectomy and removal of her uterus and ovaries, also found a new mission: spreading awareness of breast cancer among Latinas, particularly Spanish-speakers.

“I shared my story in March at the American Cancer Society gala in Chicago. When I walked into that room, that’s when I realized, ‘I have to do something in Spanish.’ There were no Hispanic people,” she said. “I said, ‘There is a disconnect somewhere. Somebody needs to do something.’”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., with an estimated 246,000 new diagnoses this year. It is the leading cause of cancer death among Latinas, who are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages and less likely to receive appropriate treatment, according to data from the American Cancer Society. Among white, black and Asian women, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths.

Carrie Cihasky, senior manager of community events for ACS in Chicago, said Cano has taken on an active role in the ongoing effort to reach Latinas.

“Whether it’s a health fair, a dinner or anything else, she’s always ready, willing and able to speak,” she said. “One thing she has really helped us with is identify where to put the (informational) materials to better reach people.”

Cano took part in her first 5K breast cancer walk last weekend at Soldier Field in Chicago, helping raise more than $2,500. Next on her list is reaching out to the city council to bring a 5K breast cancer walk in downtown Elgin. She also wants to volunteer at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, where she was treated.

Cano said she was inspired by her son Isaac, now nearly 3, to tackle the fight against her disease with a relaxed attitude. “I just could not bear to let him see me this way. It was like, ‘OK, there are things I can’t do, but there are lots of things I can do.’ I decided to just flip around.”

She first noticed a lump on her breast in May 2015 while she was breast-feeding but didn’t go to the doctor until October.

“I continued to go through my daily life, second-guessing myself, because I chose to be a mom and my career. I chose other things in life over myself. And I think as women, we are trained to do that,” she said. “That’s the only part I regret, not having pushed myself sooner. But at the end of the day, this journey has opened the door for so many other people to know about breast cancer.”

She’s had great support from her husband and family, her church, and even strangers, thanks to videos detailing her journey that she posted on social media, she said. People have written encouraging letters and sent her healing plants and religious medallions.

Although her pathology reports are negative, she needs chemotherapy every few weeks for the rest of her life, she said. “Because of the advanced stage, there is no, ‘You got the miracle, and you’re done. Have a good life,’” she said. “You have to stay on it.”

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Source: (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/2fCGASg

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Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.dailyherald.com

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