Survivor Stories -- Vickie Valdez – Handful

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Survivor Stories -- Vickie Valdez

on October 22, 2018

Instead of counting the years that I’ve survived cancer, I prefer to say I just celebrated 7 years “cured” in May 2018.

I was diagnosed with Her2 positive invasive ductal carcinoma after finding a lump in my right breast, near the rib cage. I completed 16 rounds of chemotherapy over 5 months. Four were the brutal kind and twelve were less brutal but with plenty of fun side effects! I kept exercising, both running and lifting weights, during treatment, but in the end I gained 15 pounds, most of which I blame on cake and good scotch. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy on May 31, 2011. The pathology report came back clean: complete response, no cancer left.

After treatment I underwent reconstruction with silicone implants, which took 5 months. This means I just remove the pads that come with Handful bras. The clean pathology report meant I got to keep my own nipples, and I figure if they get pointy it’s kind of amazing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

At the time of my diagnosis, I worked for Rivermark Community Credit Union. Before every single treatment, one of my coworkers presented me with a delicious homemade meal. I felt supported every day and could not be more grateful, because I know that not every patient feels supported by their employer.

The best advice I received, which I still share with others, was to avoid googling my illness, also known as “Dr. Google,” and stick only to knowledgeable websites. I met many wonderful women on my journey and am so happy when I see my survivor sisters thriving. I’d also say cancer gave me more balance in my life. I work hard at my job, but my home life is full of adventure and peace. 

One thing that has helped keep me cancer free is that I kept exercising and lifting weights, all while experiencing no lymphedema symptoms. It’s important to find both a type of exercise you enjoy and a place to do it in where you feel connected and supported. I found both when my former trainer introduced me to Industrial Strength Gym, five years ago.  I’ve grown so much as a person and an athlete since I joined Industrial Strength. It’s also where I was convinced to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and now I’ve been training for four years. 

I will continue to try new things as the years keep unfolding. I’m training for my next big jiu jitsu competition in the spring. I’ve embraced hiking and backpacking, and even a bit of rock climbing. I’m determined to make the most of every year cured from breast cancer!

by Jennifer Ferguson on October 22, 2018

Thank you for sharing your BADASS celebration being 7 years “cured”! 💪🏽💕 I love these fabulous pix of you GRABBING LIFE! Awesome job being so active, and your new adventures are an inspiration for us all: jiu jitsu, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. Cheers to you being determined to make the most of every year cured from breast cancer! 👏

by Jody on October 22, 2018

Vickie – this is super inspiring. Thank you for being a badass all around.

by Cary on October 22, 2018

Vickie! You badass! Never once have you let breast cancer slow your roll or define you. Your commitment to making the most of every day is obvious when I get glimpses of all the places you are going and things you are doing on your Facebook feed. It is inspiring that becoming a competitive jiu jitsu practitioner keeps your fighting a spirit alive in every cell of your body. Keep going, Vickie, you are on the right path❤


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