BY MARIE ELOZAR, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
ORLANDO – My name is Marie Elozar. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 37 years old in 2016. It was stage one cancer. I initially detected the lump in my breast. I had a small ball in my left breast that I could move around. I had this nagging feeling that I needed to see a doctor. When I finally went to the doctor, I had to beg for a referral to have a mammogram because, at the time, they didn’t give mammograms to women under 40 years old. I learn from that day on I need to become my own healthcare advocate.
When I got the news, the test came back positive. I was numb. I had a dream, and the same way I dreamt is the same way it happened in real life. I ended up having a bilateral mastectomy, and they didn’t recommend me for chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
There is no family history of breast cancer that I know of, but for some reason beyond my understanding, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2021. This time around, I received chemo and radiation treatment. What’s crazy is I also had a dream about a year before I was diagnosed the second time about a doctor telling me I had breast cancer again. I just scoffed at the dream doctor, but he was telling the truth. This time the cancer had spread to at least eight lymph nodes. I went to see a doctor because another ball was growing in my lymph nodes, which was extremely painful.
My support network in 2016 was Connie and Debbie. One of them took me to every appointment. I’ll forever be grateful to them because they knew the right questions to ask and helped me get through the appointments. After all, I couldn’t process anything the doctors were saying. I also had my family and best friend, Kerline, who helped a lot. My life group, App for Life, from First Baptist Church of Orlando, stepped in to help my family and me a lot. Many friends, former coworkers, and bosses also reached out to me. They sent meals and showered me with so much love.
The cancer treatment was painful for me. If I had gone through that the first time, I don’t know if I would’ve gone through it the second time. It was excruciating. I had to hold the wall to walk for me to go to the bathroom. Although I had cut my hair before starting treatment, when chunks of hair were falling out every time I touched my hair, it finally sank. I have breast cancer again. Losing my hair was devasting for me. So many times, I wanted to throw in the towel, but God wouldn’t let me. I leaned on the Lord to help me there through the treatments. He held my hand and sent me wonderful people along to help me along the way. They know who they are. One obstacle I faced before treatment could not find a doctor. The appointments were later in the year. One hospital group I called wanted to put me on a waiting list, but God sent a guardian angel who waited for my former doctor after hours so I could get an appointment sooner than later. She went above and beyond for someone she had never met.
The first time I went through breast cancer, I self-taught myself how to sew. The second time, I started making mixed media art which was extremely therapeutic for me. Life after cancer is busy for me. I’m back in school full-time to finish my bachelor’s degree in business, and I also started a nonprofit, 501c pending, Our Pink Is Beautiful, to help other survivors or thrivers. I want them to see them how God sees us, Beautiful.
One message I would tell other women is to be their own health advocate. Listen to your body. Find a church group that will come beside you, pray for you, and love on you. You are not alone. Everything happens for a reason, and tomorrow is not promised to us. Hold your family tight and love on them. “God has his hands on you. He knows the plans he has for us. I give God all the glory.” Romans 8:28