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Breast cancer diagnosis changes everything for Angie Hernandez
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Breast cancer diagnosis changes everything for Angie Hernandez

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Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, was the date everything changed for Angie Hernandez.

About two weeks prior, Hernandez went in for her regular mammogram where doctors found a spot. She underwent another mammogram and had a biopsy done on the spot doctors had found during the first one.

It was on Dec. 20 that her doctor broke it to her that she had stage one breast cancer.

“The doctor just came in and says, ‘I’m sorry to tell you that you have breast cancer and I have a navigator coming in and we’re going to move very quickly,’” Hernandez said.

She said it all happened so fast she didn’t quite have time to process what was going on.

“He walked out of the room, and I looked at my daughter like, ‘What the heck just happened here?’”

Hernandez, though, said she wasn’t completely caught off-guard by the news.

“I was scared. I kind of had a feeling. I just had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right,” she said. “My only thing was, I was afraid of what stage it was. Was it aggressive? I just didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

To make matters worse, it was just five days before Christmas and Hernandez and her family were preparing to go on a trip. Hernandez decided not to share the news immediately with her family because of the timing.

“I didn’t want it to ruin Christmas and I didn’t want it to ruin my son’s wedding. I just kind of left it at that for like four days. That Thursday, the hospital started calling. The doctor’s office started calling. Then, it was kind of like, ‘OK, this is real now,’” she said.

Hernandez said the pace of treatment was so fast over the next few months.

“I don’t remember a lot because it seriously moved fast. I started seeing doctors on Jan. 3. By Feb. 4, I had my first two surgeries,” she said.

During the surgeries, they removed two to three lymph nodes. She said cancer wasn’t found in the lymph nodes, so she didn’t have to go through chemotherapy or radiation.

To add to the uncertainty that comes with cancer, Hernandez went through all of this at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was scared. I didn’t go anywhere. I wasn’t around anybody. When I went to work, I went to work and that was it. I came home because I just didn’t want to catch anything. I had to quarantine before the surgery,” she said. “Even after I had the surgery — I was out 12 weeks total — I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t have anybody come and visit because I just didn’t want to catch it. I just didn’t feel like being around other people. I just felt very self-conscious about what I looked like. I wasn’t myself.”

Hernandez said she was self-conscious for quite a while after her surgeries.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to be around nobody. We did some fundraisers, but it took like a maybe a month to six weeks before we even made an announcement to do the fundraisers. I just thought people would see me differently. Were they going to look at my chest? Would they see me differently?,” she said. “At first, it was hard, I would always wear like a jacket to cover up.

"People ask me, ‘Don’t you feel the same?’ To be honest with you, I don’t feel the same. Every day I think about how lucky that I am that I did catch it early. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t ever think about that. I am a totally different person than what I was two years ago.”

The doctors have told her the cancer likely will not return.

“In the back of my mind, I always wonder if it will come back. To be honest, I never thought that I would ever get cancer, yet it happened. So, now I do worry about that,” she said.

Hernandez said she is glad that she has always been health conscious and taken care of herself and urges other women to do the same.

“My thing is — to the women out there — get your mammogram. I have spoken to a few family members that don’t want to get them. What I tell them is it is a wellness check. If you have insurance, it is going to cover it. Why would you not want to do that? If I would have never gone and did mine every year, it could have been worse than. I stress that to women to do it, get it done, get it done and get it done. It’s going to save you.

"I’ve had some friends that had it and have passed away and weren’t as lucky as me,” she said.

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Jeff Van Patten is the sports editor of the Star-Herald. Jeff can be reached by calling 308-632-9048 or emailing jeff.vanpatten@starherald.com.

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