Dancing Survivor

By: Johan Rodríguez and Félix Saldaña

When second year student Ángely A. Piazza was 15 she practiced lots of different sports, but her favorites were dancing and surfing. She spent hours surfing and dancing and everything seemed nice or so she thought. Her life drastically changed when at age 15 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Born in the city but raised in the country Ángely, 19, learned the humbleness of the country people but enjoyed the benefits of private school. These experiences influenced who she is nowadays.

Angely is light-skinned, has light brown hair, and is always smiling. Her life drastically changed when she heard the heartbreaking news of her diagnostic.

“I thought that it was an injury from surfing and I did not accept that I had cancer,” said Ángely who is a student in the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. According to Puerto Rico Central Cancer Registry, “breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among females in Puerto Rico (for the period of years that goes from 2004-2009).”

After finding about the cancer she was traumatized and depressed since she was prohibited to do sports and with sports she could feel relaxed. Her parents were devastated, “my mother always went and hid herself to cry and my father didn’t say much.” Ángely’s mother cried begging for her to be the one to suffer instead of her daughter; her father didn’t say a word until the day of the operation. “Everything will be all right, no matter what happens I found two more jobs to be able to support you,” he said.

The hardest thing to deal with was accepting the fact that she indeed had cancer. It was at this moment she had fought with everything in her head, with life, with God. She couldn’t understand why at 15 something like this was happening to her because she considered herself a good person and saw the cancer as life’s punishment.

Even after being prohibited to do sports she could not stop dancing since dancing became one of her reasons to keep fighting. For her to have a dance teacher and dance was really joyful and made her forget about the cancer. Every time she danced tears came out, and was the only time she could ever be happy because every night she worried since she was told she wouldn’t make it 21. So she had her life planned out and she wanted to dance. She thought “If I ever could dance more I would love to dance like my teacher”. During this period, “dancing was my inspiration, my happiness, my doctor and my salvation,” Ángely recalled.

The daily struggles were the doctor’s appointments, having to miss school, the biopsies. When the biopsies were done she had stitches and had to miss school for a week and wasn’t supposed to exercise which she did anyway and sometimes got hurt while dancing. The medication made her dizzy and disoriented, they were too strong and sometimes she fainted or could not walk so she had to stay home.

Her emotional life was also affected. She never had a boyfriend during this period or any close friends because considering that she wouldn’t make it to age 21 she did not want anyone to get too attached to her.

One of the things that impacted her most was all the looks she got in the doctor’s offices. “It’s as if they were saying ‘poor little girl,’ dealing with cancer at such a young age.”

She also never told any of her friends, not even her family members knew with exception of her mom and dad. No one ever found out until last year when the operation to remove the mass was carried out. “It was as if wearing a mask for years, smiling without anyone ever knowing what I was going through”.

Then on the day of the operation she posted on Facebook “Going to the operating room, pray for me.” That’s when all of her family and friends found out. “As soon as I found out of her operation I went to the hospital and I couldn’t believe it,” said Alfer Castro, Ángely’s friend. While in recovery Ángely had to be resurrected, and remembers the nurses all around her, the sounds of the speakers calling a Dr. Colón into the recovery room and being injected with something.

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This is the hospital patient wristband that Ángely used during the time of the operation and recovery.

Ángely spent five years without ever crying, she went to the doctors, had examinations done and was always neutral as if not processing anything. The first time she ever cried was the year of the operation, when the sight of her tearful mother just shook her.

Ángely would love to talk to others in order to motivate them in the fight against cancer even though she would not know how to talk to them since she can’t tell them everything will be ok because she has lived through the same experiences and she knows everything will not be all right. She could make them relax, keep them busy with other things but not give false hopes. You can have faith, but you can’t be happy every night hoping it will all just go away. It’s like a lottery and you don’t know what you get.

But Ángely says her illness made her who she is today, she learned a lot. It helped her mature faster, it taught her the true meaning of life and the little time we have. Every time someone says you only live once she says “that’s a lie, you can live twice.”
She enjoys every second of her life, every second spent dancing, every time she goes to the university because maybe she would not have gotten there. Now she has all sorts of friends everywhere, she makes all sorts of friends and wishes to meet a girl in the university band who is also a cancer patient.

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Here we can Ángely in the middle and the dance team around her in the walk for breast cancer.

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Here we can see Ángely in one of her dances.

 

 

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