VOICES: Breast cancer doesn’t play fair during a pandemic and neither should you

Steve and Heather Salazar (center) and family. Heather Salazar is the president and CEO of Pink Ribbon Girls. have four children and live in Tipp City.
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Steve and Heather Salazar (center) and family. Heather Salazar is the president and CEO of Pink Ribbon Girls. have four children and live in Tipp City.

This guest opinion column by Heather Salazar appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, October 4.

Breast cancer crashed into my life when I was 29 years old and we adopted our sweet daughter Lexi. She was just 10 months old and her young momma, Alexis, was battling Stage IV breast cancer.

As we welcomed baby Lexi into our family, we helped care for her mom. Unfortunately, Alexis passed away at the young age of 24.

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Cancer doesn’t play fair. A year and a half after Alexis passed away, I was diagnosed with the same aggressive breast cancer.

I was angry.

How could this happen?

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Would my kids lose their momma? Would Lexi lose two moms to breast cancer? A self breast exam saved my life. I was 31 years old, I would have been dead before a mammogram.

Heather Salazar is president and CEO of the Pink Ribbon Girls. The nonprofit provides  critical services to cancer patients.
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Heather Salazar is president and CEO of the Pink Ribbon Girls. The nonprofit provides critical services to cancer patients.

This pandemic came in our lives like nothing we had ever experienced. Our people became sick, businesses were shut down, our lives were interrupted, we were scared and didn’t know what would happen next. Then it hit me.

Take a second, think of someone you know who has or is battling cancer. This is what a cancer diagnosis does. One day your life is fine, then a cancer diagnosis changes everything.

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You are scared, immunocompromised, your life is interrupted.

You know what we have proven over and over?

We have HOPE.

We are RESILIENT people.

We are blessed to live in the greatest community.

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My organization, the Pink Ribbon Girls, took a bold step in March 2020 and committed to increasing the number of meals served to our clients battling breast or gynecological cancer from three meals a week per family member to five meals a week per family member in response to COVID-19 through June 2020. As you know, cancer patients are at high risk of contracting the virus due to low immunity, and we knew we had to make our clients' needs a priority.

Additionally, PRG has never stopped rides to treatments throughout the pandemic to ensure our clients were safely getting to their critical appointments. We are proud of how Pink Ribbon Girls stepped up and exemplified our mission during the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

Heather Salazar is president and CEO of the Pink Ribbon Girls. The nonprofit provides critical services to cancer patients. Guest columns are submitted or requested fact-based opinion pieces of 300 to 450 words. Proposed pieces should include links to any research or statistics cited. Have an idea? Contact Amelia Robinson at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com.