José Antonio Barrena Blazquez

At first, I thought my journey had been no different from that of other breast cancer patients. Soon after sharing my experience with them, I realized how lucky I was.

It all started, like most, with a lump in the breast which, like most, I completely ignored. The lump didn’t hurt and, besides, it was getting smaller, which my stupid ignorance translated into ‘nothing bad so no reason for worry’. That is, until I got an annoying herpes on my back and decided to go to my family doctor. “I have herpes, and by the way could you look at this lump?”  I asked. And my doctor immediately saw the relationship so with a reassuring gesture (he couldn’t tell me his suspicions), he gave me an appointment for urgent tests. “It’s going to be nothing bad, but the sooner we know what it is, the better.”

That was my first stroke of luck.

Less than a month later, I was sitting in the gynecologist’s office. At this moment I already sensed that it was something bad, because everything had gone so fast. The gynecologist immediately cleared my doubts: you have cancer. “Breast cancer, indeed”.

I went into shock. My world became dark and a big hole opened under my feet with these two words. The only thing I was able to ask was: Doctor, what’s the worst thing that can happen to me? (whilst I was telling myself inside my brain: please, don’t say death, please don’t say death).

And he asked me:

Do you have children?

Yes, a 13-month-old child.

Well, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you have to pay for your son’s wedding.

(suddenly anguish turned to relief).

And the doctor continued: Do not worry. The cancer has been diagnosed early, localized, and there is no metastasis. You have a cure rate close to 100%.

Second stroke of luck.

Some days later, a good friend of mine told me: “to sacrifice a few months of your life having a bit of a bad time in exchange for saving your life…Well, Jose, I think you have a good deal on the table, so sign it.”

And that’s what happened: chemotherapy (18 sessions), complete mastectomy, lymph node removal and radiotherapy (22 sessions) all in less than ten months.

Honestly, I would have preferred to spend those ten months in Malibu or Manhattan but as my friend also predicted: “sometimes things are not as horrible as we imagine.” There were hard moments, of course, but the early diagnosis and the good response to treatment made me take it with a lot of optimism.

That is why I strive highly to publicize the disease; so that diagnoses are as early as possible, and to shout loudly that luck cannot be an option.

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