The stories I hear stay in my head. The woman who found breast cancer early on and is now a survivor living with her two beautiful children. My brother in law who was diagnosed with colon cancer in the later stages, we miss him dearly. The woman who despite her lack of insurance, fought and fought until someone heard her and she was able to get treatment and is now a survivor. These are all stories of Latinos. It is an epidemic and our community has to stop being afraid and face it “Cancer is here and we need to fight it.”

Often working in the community we come across people who are horrified to even mention the word. They whisper it, “she has cancer.” Sometimes the word can’t even come out as if the utter sound of it will cause the person to succumb to it.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells. Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells cannot do.

Mi gente, what do we do? Get your screenings on time. Do not let fear take over. Yes, we are not always fond of having our breast pressed into a machine, but those few minutes of getting your mammogram could potentially save your life. I had it done earlier than the recommended 40 years of age because I found a lump. My breasts were compressed into the mammography machine. Those stories of “Ay dios mio, it was terrible, I was in pain for days..” were the biggest exaggerations. Please do not share fictitious stories of how terrible and scary it is to have a screening. Most screenings do not take very long, a few minutes can save your life. We need to support each other. If you are scared, go with a friend, relative, someone who will support you.
Thank God all went well and I didn’t have anything abnormal.

So today I challenge you dear readers. If you have been procrastinating in getting your screenings, stop, and think. Someone out there loves you more than life. They do not want to see you in pain and suffering because a cancer was caught late. Seeing someone pass from cancer is such a painful and heartbreaking situation.

Go early, encourage at least 5 people in your life to get their screenings: Pap test, colonoscopy, mammogram, prostate exam, and skin exams. Regarding skin exams, my people don’t believe the hype. WE DO need sunscreen. No matter how dark your skin may be, we need to wear sunscreen, not baby oil.

Be aware of changes in your body. If you notice any changes in your body talk to your doctor immediately. Don’t wait.

Eat a balanced diet. You can have your cuchifritos and pernil, but make it every once in a while, not a daily thing. Increase the fruits and vegetables that you consume, who doesn’t love mangos, pineapples, oranges (I could go on and on). Eat turkey, chicken, and fish. Reduce the amount of red meats, pork, beef and processed meats such as cold cuts (ham, salami, bologna).

Move your body. You don’t have to run 5 miles a day. Dance in the kitchen, play with your kids, run in place while you watch your favorite shows on television.

We come from a lineage of survivors. We need to wake up and start moving.

For specific cancer screening guidelines please visit the American Cancer Society’s website, www.cancer.org.

Visit www.yosimecuido.com to learn more about breast cancer screenings and Latinas. Yo me cuido is a movement, a call to action for Latinas to take ownership of their health. Yo me cuido started as a way to honor Latinas who have fought against breast cancer, so their struggle was not in vain.