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Lorena Herrera – Breast Cancer Success Story

Calling all angels

How Methodist Charlton’s cancer team came to Lorena Herrera’s rescue

Most people wouldn’t call a workplace accident “lucky,” but Lorena Herrera considers her minor mishap to be one of the luckiest things that ever happened to her.

“If it hadn’t happened, it might have been a long time before I discovered that I had breast cancer,” she says.

An unexpected diagnosis

Lorena Herrera – breast cancer success story Lorena Herrera is looking forward
to a fun-filled summer with her family.

Last spring, the 47-year-old Garland resident was making her way through an ordinary day at her temporary warehouse job. Suddenly, a box she was lifting caused another box to fall on her right breast.

“There was a bruise, but I didn’t worry about it,” Lorena says. “A few weeks later I felt a strange burning pain in the area; then I started having pain from my underarm to my breast. So I went to see my doctor.”

Lorena’s doctor immediately recommended a mammogram, which led to a biopsy and, a few weeks later, to a devastating phone call: The results were positive for breast cancer.

“I began crying so hard that I had to pull over,” recalls Lorena, who was driving home from work when her doctor called with the news. “I said, ‘What’s going to happen to me? What am I going to do now?’”

Finding direction and support

Lorena was referred to Maria Juarez, MD, oncologist on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, which was recently recognized by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. The same afternoon that Lorena learned she had cancer, she got a call from the hospital’s breast cancer nurse navigator, Vicki Hallum, RN, CBCN.

“Vicki said she would be there to help me with everything, and she was right,” Lorena says. “Every step of the way, she was there to answer questions and make appointments. She even helped arrange counseling sessions with a therapist.”

Ultimately, Dr. Juarez diagnosed Lorena with high-grade ductal stage carcinoma in situ (commonly known as DCIS), an early-stage breast cancer. Though it is highly treatable, people with DCIS are at greater risk of cancer recurrence down the road.

“In collaboration with our breast center’s multidisciplinary team, I recommended that Lorena undergo a lumpectomy (surgery to remove the cancerous growth) followed by six weeks of daily radiation therapy,” Dr. Juarez explains. “We then placed her on a surveillance program that calls for physical exams every three to six months for the next few years and annual mammograms. With this treatment, her chances of survival and of the cancer not reoccurring are excellent.”

Where she needed to be

Today Lorena is back to her normal routine — and full of gratitude.

“I believe that God put me where I needed to be to get help and also sent angels to take care of me, like Vicki and Dr. Juarez and my friends and family — and especially my husband and my mother, who cried with me and worked around the clock to take care of me after surgery,” she says. “I couldn’t have gotten through this without them.”