When Liliana Estupinan accompanied her mom to a doctor’s visit, she saw a promotion for a blood screening. She jumped at the offer, but soon learned something was wrong. The doctor ordered a pap smear and a breast ultrasound, then a diagnostic mammogram. A biopsy later confirmed stage III breast cancer.
She’s currently receiving extensive cancer treatment at Harris Health System. In fact, she’s getting chemotherapy treatments weekly and has radiation and a mastectomy pending.
On Oct. 24, Estupinan, 50, will join hundreds of breast cancer survivors like her at Harris Health’s 3rd annual Pink Out, a celebration of patients treated at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, Ben Taub Hospital and Smith Clinic, the system’s dedicated center for the outpatient treatment and diagnostic care of cancer patients. The event — featuring music, video and the illumination of Smith Clinic in bright pink — coincides with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
Estupinan began her cancer care at Harris Health’s Gulfgate Health Center.
“God blessed me the first moment I knew it was cancer,” she says. “My doctor was the clinic’s medical director and she took care of everything. She got me appointments at Smith Clinic very quickly.”
Chemo has taken its toll on her. After each treatment, she feels bad for three days — and that’s not easy to handle for someone with a larger-than-life personality.
“It’s harder on my family than on me. It’s especially hard for my mother because she lost her sister to cancer,” Estupinan says. “Sometimes I’m scared, and sometimes I cry, but I don’t want others to feel sorry for me. I enjoy life. I eat whatever I want. Not even cancer has made me lose weight.”
She says she tries to enjoy every moment in her life.
“I want to live my experience, not another person’s. Many people hate the word ‘cancer,’” she says. “They think it means death. Cancer isn’t contagious, and it isn’t embarrassing. It’s normal. We can’t be scared of it.”
She encourages patients with cancer and tells to them to find purpose in their lives.
“Material things and the way we look aren’t important,” she says. “It’s more important to enjoy life — your family, your kids and your work. I enjoy each moment and I love this moment. Everything, even cancer, happens for a reason. We just have to find it.”
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