A Young Mother’s Story about Survival and the Importance of Being your own Advocate

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed and leading cause of cancer death for Hispanic women. In order to minimize the risk of breast cancer mortality for Hispanic women, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade helps to fund non-profit organizations like Nueva Vida that assist Hispanic women with overcoming barriers so they have access to high-quality cancer screenings, diagnostic exams and treatment.

Paola Giorello is a patient participant in the Avon Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Program at Nueva Vida in Washington D.C. Read about her journey to survivorship.

In February 2015, Paola Giorello, a 37-year-old mom and Uruguayan from the Washington, D.C.-area, noticed a lump in her breast. As a precaution, she visited her doctor who advised her to come back after she turned 40. Paola, who refused to accept her doctor’s recommendation, decided to take her health into her own hands, and went to

Nueva Vida is a non-profit organization, in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, dedicated to informing, supporting and empowering Latina families, in a culturally sensitive way, whose lives are affected by cancer.

At Nueva Vida, patient navigator Ana Quijada was paired with Paola through the Avon Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Program. Ana immediately set up another mammogram appointment for Paola and doctors found a cyst in Paola’s right breast. However, Paola was told to come back in six months, and when she returned, the doctors told Paola the same recommendation she’d heard months earlier: “You’re too young and have no family history of cancer. Come back when you’re 40.”

Press Briefing
Paola Giorello (first from left) presented at the Avon Breast Cancer Forum about her journey to survivorship.

Taking Charge

During the next six months, Paola’s cyst started to harden and she found lumps under her arm. Concerned, Paola returned to Nueva Vida in February 2016 and Ana worked hard to schedule another mammogram appointment. A week after the appointment, Paola’s worst fear was confirmed: she had breast cancer.

Paola describes how important it was to take charge of her health, which, according to Paola, many Latina women struggle to do.

“I think many Latinas tend not to question authority. They want to listen to what the doctor says even if it means going against what they’re feeling. I want to encourage other Latinas out there to speak up and fight for themselves. I’m so thankful that I had my navigator, Ana, to help me. But first and foremost, I had to be my own advocate.”

 Because of the care and guidance Paola received, her scans are now cancer free.

“I’m so grateful to Ana, Avon and Nueva Vida. Without them, I might not have gotten a mammogram for three more years, and by then it could have been too late. I truly owe them my life. If my story helps even one woman out there to keep going and speak up, that would mean so much to me.”

Advocating for Change

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Hispanic women and is the leading cause of cancer death for Hispanic women. In order to minimize the risk of breast cancer mortality in Hispanic women and help more women with stories similar to Paola, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade funds organizations like Nueva Vida.

recent study released at the Avon Breast Cancer Forum, which was conducted by Sinai Urban Health Institute and funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, discovered that mortality rates among Hispanic subgroups in the U.S. are statistically significant. Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Cubans have the highest breast cancer mortality rates, while Central and South American women are significantly more likely to survive breast cancer. The hope is that this research will improve the individualization of care for Hispanic women with breast cancer – taking into account the ethnic identities, beliefs and cultures that could impact how they experience this disease.

“Understanding where the greatest needs are in improving the lives of women with breast cancer is a fundamental first step to bringing about change in how this disease is addressed, particularly in the Hispanic community. As the company for women, Avon is committed to taking actions that matter most to women and that is why the Avon Foundation is passionate about funding studies like this. We want to identify where the disparities lie so we can effectively shape and support programs that will have the greatest impact.” – Cheryl Heinonen, President of the Avon Foundation for Women

 

Story Sources:

  • Society. AC. Center Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2015-2017. In. Atlanta: 2015.