A two-time breast cancer survivor has not allowed her previous diagnoses to diminish her passion for life. In fact, it has made her stronger.
Elizabeth Figueroa, a life-long Bronx resident has shown courage and strength, as a result of her battles with the deadly disease.
Figueroa’s journey with breast cancer began when her aunt was diagnosed about 15 years ago.
As a result, at age 35 she began going for annual mammograms to stay alert of any signs of the disease.
In January 2003, however, Figueroa was diagnosed with breast cancer after she went in for her routine, annual mammogram.
“I was very proactive by scheduling my mammograms on a yearly basis,” she said. “Then, when I went to my appointment in 2003, the mammogram was taking longer than usual.
“After asking questions and going for a biopsy, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer a month later.
“I was so upset – I asked myself, ‘why me?’ I thought I was going to die,” she said.
Figueroa immediately reached out to the American Cancer Society, where fellow cancer survivors called her to share their experiences and help guide her through the journey.
After having surgery in March and undergoing radiation treatment in April 2003, Figueroa was cancer free.
However, she was diagnosed again in March 2013, ten years later.
Fortunately, after undergoing major surgery in May 2013, she was once again cancer free, and has been for the last two years.
Recovering from her second bout did not involve undergoing any radiation or chemotherapy treatments.
She currently sees her oncologist every three months for regular check-ups.
“I can’t tell you how important it is to have family and friends supporting you during times like this, and how important it is to maintain a positive attitude,” Figueroa said. “I thank God for my husband, Rafael, who was there for me during the second recovery period and showed me his unconditional love.”
“My advice to all women is to please go for your annual mammograms and continue to support organizations that help in the fight against breast cancer, like ASC,” she added.
Figueroa attended Lehman College, where she earned her Bachelor of Science, Business Administration Degree.
Currently, Figueroa works as the director of community relations at New York Botanical Garden where she has been for the last 17 years.
“Elizabeth is an inspiration to all who have the pleasure to work with her,” said Sally Leone, editorial director at New York Botanical Garden. “Undeterred by her illness, she faced every challenge with determination, focus and grace. She continued to organize and engage in active partnerships and events with community leaders and groups throughout the Bronx that offer a wide range of education and recreational opportunities to (Botanical) Gardens visitors.”
Figueroa will be one of many who will be walking in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Orchard Beach on Sunday, October 18.
She will be accompanied by family, friends, colleagues and other fellow breast cancer survivors.