Ms. Bonnie Juarez has an entirely different perspective on life than she did just a few years ago. Since January of 2020, she has battled and is winning the war against breast cancer. Her outlook has remained positive and in her words she’s “thankful every day to be here” and has learned to “let the little stuff go.” You can find her most days on Main Street in Jena at Miss B’s Place restaurant and gift shop, with a smile on her face and a kind greeting for all her customers.
“I am so grateful for the prayers and support I’ve received during my battle,” she said. “The town’s been supportive with my customers praying for me and well-wishers reaching out through texts and messages. There’s been so much encouragement and support from our small town.”
Bonnie confesses that she initially had given little thought to why the terminology ‘battle’ was used in conjunction with breast cancer until she became enlisted, up close and personal in the fight.
“I had no idea about why they called it a battle,” she shared. “You don’t just get it (breast cancer) and you’re done. It’s such a heavy weight that you’re constantly thinking about – that’s why it’s called a battle.”
She’s learned from her personal experience with the disease that continual scans and mammograms become a routine part of life for the rest of life; and Bonnie admitted candidly that she had never understood the weight of worry – financially, emotionally and otherwise – that friends and others carried during battles with cancer, until she was diagnosed. Battling breast cancer brought those realizations home.
“It definitely takes over your life in so many ways. You worry every time you go for a scan. You don’t sleep good!” she explained with a soft laugh.
The statistics and facts she shared concerning breast cancer are sobering and eye opening, to say the least:
- One out of eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Breast Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in women.
- 30% of all new cancer diagnoses in women is breast cancer.
However, as she points out, early detection is the key and 99% of breast cancer cases in women are curable with early detection. Sixty- four percent of early detected cases are diagnosed at the localized stage with a five-year survival rate.
Bonnie is, without saying, an avid proponent of yearly routine mammograms for all women. That’s the message she wants all women to hear.
A yearly routine mammogram is what led to early detection for her in 2020. COVID had the world at a standstill when she was diagnosed by local doctors. She decided to go to MD Anderson in Houston, TX, and after MD Anderson received her medical reports, she was deemed a candidate for treatment at the facility. At that time, her cancer was stage one and was contained to the breast. No surgeries were being done at that time because of COVID, so she was prescribed a hormone treatment for the type of breast cancer she had.
When she returned to MD Anderson in July of 2020, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, so surgery was then scheduled. Again, COVID changed the course, as she could have no one go with her for the surgery and no family could visit her during her stay. Her children, who had and have been her greatest support, had to leave her at the front door of the hospital and watch her walk in alone.
“No one could go with me during the surgery. My kids weren’t allowed in, they just had to drop me off at the door,” she shared in reflection. “It felt scary.”
After three months, Bonnie came home to radiation treatments and continued hormone treatments. She rejected chemo due to past experiences close family members had previously suffered with it. Today she is still undergoing routine hormone treatments which help both her blood and bones and is in the third year of taking them with approximately a year and a half remaining.
Always thinking of others, Bonnie deferred to the patients she met and saw at MD Anderson during her stay. Her heart went out to the young women in their early twenties who were also fighting breast cancer, some with young children to raise, and children of all ages across the facility who were battling cancer of different sorts. She expressed concern for the patients who had traveled from the various continents across the globe who were seeking treatment, facing untold miles and facing many obstacles in the process.
“I am so grateful I got to go to MD Anderson for the best care,” she explained. “I’ve lived my life and raised my kids. It was a shock to me to see those young women there battling cancer who had people at home depending on them. I saw young moms and older patients who had to travel from all over the country and world to get the best care. I am just so grateful for life, and thankful to be here – everyday.”
Gratitude is a gift well-earned for Bonnie and the hundreds of thousands of others who have battled breast cancer, some victorious in the gift of continued life, others victorious in the battle they waged winning in their tenacity until the final breath.
There are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the US alone. All women, old and young, must be proactive with yearly mammograms and screenings as recommended by their physicians. That’s Bonnie Juarez’s message to every woman young and old alike: yearly mammograms save lives – don’t neglect yours.