A Patient's Mission to Help Yanira Hurtado

Yanira Hurtado formed a special bond with her care team, radiation oncology therapist,Jaime Jimenez and infusion nurse, Josephine Cabisag.

Yanira Hurtado formed a special bond with her care team, radiation oncology therapist, Jaime Jimenez and infusion nurse, Josephine Cabisag.

The air was tense in Dr. Faisal Khan’s office on Oct. 19, 2021, as Yanira Hurtado and her husband Joaquin awaited her biopsy results. Khan entered and pulled his stool close. He looked at Hurtado, shook his head, and said, “Yanira, it’s cancer.” The weight of his words matched the gravity in his eyes.

Hurtado was diagnosed with stage three invasive lobular carcinoma. She had always prioritized her breast health and diligently undergone mammograms after developing benign cysts that required surgical drainage. However, this cancer was notorious for its branching pattern growth that often escapes early detection. With resolve and without delay, Hurtado opted for a mastectomy, determined to confront the disease head-on.

Moments before her surgery on November 4, in a rare moment of vulnerability, Hurtado conveyed her fears to Khan. “Can you please leave it nice? Don’t leave me butchered up.” Leaning in close, Khan responded with gentleness, “I know what you mean. I got you.”

Post-mastectomy, Hurtado began an intensive six-month chemotherapy protocol at the Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center, followed by 36 consecutive radiation treatments. Her oncologist, Dr. Arati Chand, and the cancer center’s staff provided comprehensive medical care, secured financial assistance and gave her the emotional support she needed to fight this battle. “The cancer center became my second home,” Hurtado reflects with gratitude. “Josie was like my mom.”

Hurtado formed a special bond with her care team, radiation oncology therapists, Jaime Jimenez and Aurie Francisco, and infusion nurse, Josephine Cabisag. One day, as her treatments neared completion in August 2022, the emotional burden and trauma from cancer treatment overwhelmed her, and she broke down in tears before her session. Jamie and Aurie huddled around her and cried with her. As they dried their eyes, Hurtado confided, “I needed that.” Although her husband was her primary source of emotional support, on that day, Aurie and Jaime helped to ease the accumulated stress from her cancer journey.

Feeling better, Hurtado lay on the radiation table to begin treatment, and Aurie played one of her favorite gospel songs, “It Is the Name of Jesus.” With tears
streaming down her face again, Hurtado looked up at the picture of a tropical beach affixed to the radiation room ceiling, whispering a silent prayer for strength and the future chance to take her family to Hawaii.

Finally, on September 19, 2022, Hurtado received the news she had longed for — she was in remission. This experience transformed her into a vocal advocate for breast cancer awareness. She raises funds for Chavelyta’s Pink Hood, an organization committed to creating a supportive network for individuals and families navigating the challenges of cancer. To provide further support, she established Pink Bloom, a nonprofit organization to help cancer patients. She wears a streak of purple and pink in her hair, a reminder that although she had no choice in losing her hair during treatment, she now has the power to choose her appearance. And this past June, her dream was realized as she stood with her family on the balcony of their Hawaiian hotel room, gazing out at a view she prayed to see.

“This cancer diagnosis will not go in vain,” Hurtado said. “Some women don’t want to talk about it, very private. But as long as I’m alive, my mission is to help in every way I can.”

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