HW: Walk for Life September 30, 2008
Elizabeth Moreno first realized that breast cancer was going to change her life when a clump of her long, dark hair fell out while she was standing in an elevator after chemotherapy.
In the nine months after her diagnosis in December, Moreno, 44, lost all her long hair, welcomed the birth of her third grandson and completed 16 rounds of chemo. She is scheduled to finish radiation treatments Oct. 7.
Moreno said her body is weak. The left side of her chest appears sunburned from the radiation treatments. The lumpectomy performed on her left breast left behind a scar.
“I hope it’s a journey I never have to take again,” Moreno said.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Grand Junction Junior Service League is recognizing the month by holding the 11th annual Walk 4 Life fundraiser at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.
Money raised through the walk will fund mammography exams for low-income, uninsured Mesa County residents.
“Through education and awareness, breast cancer is no longer a disease talked about behind closed doors,” said Jodi Barbero, Walk 4 Life co-chair. “It is embraced and fought with courage and knowledge.”
Moreno wants to walk in the event with her four daughters. Moreno can’t walk longer than four blocks without a break, but she wants to raise awareness and support for breast cancer prevention and treatment.
After all, prevention methods may have saved her life.
Moreno started getting annual mammograms five years before her diagnosis. She followed doctor’s orders and performed self-exams on her breasts monthly.
In December 2007, Moreno felt a lump and tenderness in her left breast during a self-exam. Friends thought it was a cyst. They were wrong.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer I thought, ‘Am I going to live to see my grandchildren have grandchildren?’ ” Moreno said.
Moreno caught her cancer early. It did not spread beyond her left breast, and she is hopeful the lumpectomy, chemo and radiation killed her cancer.
The staff at St. Mary’s Advanced Medicine Pavilion helped her physically, Morena said.
For everything else, she leaned on her family and her faith.
“Psalm 23,” Moreno said, referring to the psalm in the Bible where the psalmist asks God to protect him from death and danger. She said it was a source of strength.
Moreno received all her cancer treatment in Grand Junction where her daughters and grandchildren also live. She still has two teenage daughters at home. Moreno is thankful she didn’t leave her family behind.
Wearing a wig of lush, dark hair topped with a bandana, Moreno said her eyelashes, eyebrows and nose hair are growing back. Her natural hair is now as long as her 8-month-old grandson Anthony’s hair.
“I know hair does not make the person, but it’s part of who I am,” Moreno said. “I feel like I’m coming back to life.”