“Here I am, I feel as healthy as can be. I was planning to run a 5k and I think I went mountain biking the day I got my diagnoses,” Gonzalez told me.
SAN DIEGO — They say breast cancer doesn’t discriminate, and now no one knows that better than California councilor Lorena Gonzalez. The state’s representative for Chula Vista, National City and Southern San Diego neighborhoods such as Otay Mesa, Barrio Logan and City Heights made the announcement on Twitter a few weeks ago. “Not only did my mom have breast cancer, she ended up dying of metastatic breast cancer 17 years later,” Gonzalez said. “So right away, what you hear is ‘You’re going to die.’ And that’s not what the doctors said. I think it took me a few more days to get past the ‘I’m going to die’.”
Gonzalez’s doctors had been watching her since she was 35 because of her family history of breast cancer. “Here I am, I feel as healthy as can be. I was planning to run a 5k and I think I went mountain biking the day I got my diagnoses. I still don’t feel tired, I don’t feel sick. But I am sick. My body is fighting something,” said Gonzalez.
Lorena Gonzalez was a labor leader before being elected to represent California’s 80th district in 2013. She and her husband, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, are raising a blended family of five children. Gonzalez says she has all the support she can imagine. “He’s (Fletcher) been able to get all my doctor’s appointments, follow-up exams, MRIs, you name it — he’s driven me to everyone.” She says she will have to rely on her family for that support if she has surgery. “I have to undergo a mastectomy. Unfortunately, as the surgeon said, there’s a lot of real estate there that needs to be taken with the cancer cells. In the next few weeks, when they set up an operating room, I’m going for a single mastectomy or a double mastectomy. We should know in the coming days.”
It’s been about a month since she first got her diagnosis, Gonzalez says. And even though she has a family history of breast cancer, that doesn’t make it any easier to explain what happens to her children she shared.
“My 25-year-old remembers her grandmother and remembers her grandmother who died from this. Having to talk through it is difficult at different ages. Even discussing body parts and explaining what needs to be done is difficult. I am a hands on mom. I cook and take care of everyone. In fact, I cook before going to Sacramento and leave it in the fridge or freezer. So I said to them, ‘I need some help a few weeks later.'”
Gonzalez’s first-hand experience with cancer treatment was an eye-opener. The counselor says, “Cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. So often, especially when caught early, it’s something we can be treated by and live a long healthy life.” That’s why she says she wants to make sure other women have access to the health care they need. “I know there are so many people in South San Diego and Chula Vista and National City that don’t have those kinds of benefits and don’t have that kind of health care and that’s something that we’re going to look at in the coming years.”
And when she’s on the other side of her struggle, Gonzalez says she plans to lead the fight for those women. “What’s the point of a screening exam if you think you can’t afford the treatment and we need to make sure everyone can afford the treatment. After the diagnosis, you can get Medi-Cal. But the tests that come in between the screening and diagnosis are not free.”
For now, her message to every woman: get your mammogram. “It’s going to be hard (for me.) It’s major surgery and I’m losing body parts, you know. But it’s going to be okay. I’m going to live and it’s only because of early detection and it’s just because I got that mammogram.”
Today! I have the results of my MRI biopsy and the cancer has not spread from my right breast! (Fantastic!) AND Prop 22 was labeled unconstitutional!!!! Good thing one of my besties @juleshaye sent me a bottle of my favorite champagne today! pic.twitter.com/C5FtIoEIRz
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) August 21, 2021
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