A Tale of Two Survivors

Gulf Coast Healthy Living Magazine Volume 6, Issue 4 - Baptist Health Care

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Cancer warrior, Iris Celez, shares her story.

Iris Velez and her husband, Phillip, were jogging along Pensacola Beach in July 2016 as they did most mornings since retirement. Iris felt a painful ache in her left breast. When the soreness did not go away, Iris visited her primary care physician. She was not due for a mammogram but had the test earlier at her doctor’s recommendation. The results showed malignancy and stage II, triple negative cancer.

“I went into panic mode,” said Iris. “The fear took over. I wondered how long I had been living with it and not knowing. My brain said, ‘I want it out now!’”

“My oncologist told me we could try chemo and radiation first to shrink my cancer prior to surgery considerations such as a lumpectomy,” said Iris. “But I chose the surgery first. I did not wish to wait and see if the cancer would spread. Looking back now, a year later, I still feel I chose the best option.”

Iris had a left mastectomy in September 2016. Then she underwent chemo and radiation treatments. During the treatments, Iris said her family – husband Philip, daughters Kamelish and Sonya Marie, sons, Philip and Steve and her son-in-law, Peter, in addition to the team at Baptist Health Care were there for her every step of the way for support, resources and encouragement.

Cancer warrior, Kimberly Wood, shares her story.

Kimberly Wood was 30 years old when she found a lump in her armpit. Her primary care physician recommended a mammogram. A subsequent biopsy revealed Kim had stage III invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. Kim’s lymph nodes were affected and the cancer was in the nodes behind the left breast bone. This was in November 2013.

Kim’s grandmother and aunt had also experienced breast cancer. Because of this and her advanced stage, Kim decided to have a double mastectomy after chemo. She also had 20 lymph nodes removed from her arm.

Kim had six rounds of chemo and 30 rounds of radiation while trying to keep up with an active family. At the time her daughter was age 3 and her son just a year old.

Kim credits her caregiving team and the support from her family and church for helping her through the most difficult times. Today, Kim is feeling the strongest she has ever been in life. She performs a high intensity weightlifting class at a local church and stays as healthy as she can be.

Both Iris and Kim stayed positive and took one day, one treatment at a time. They advise other women and families to do the same.

“Reach for the positive,” said Iris. “But also talk to your caregiving team and be honest with how you feel. My team always kept me on track.”

“The oncology team at Baptist reminded me I was there to fight,” said Kim. “Their strength and encouragement, along with my faith and healing from Jesus, gave me courage to be where I am today.”

To read Iris and Kimberly's full story please visit Gulf Coast Healthy Living - Fall 2017 edition.