In 2001, Michelle Reyes met Michael Fernandez in a ballroom dancing class at San Diego State University. She was just 21. During the next few years, the friendship grew into a committed relationship and the future looked bright for the young couple.
In 2008, Michelle joined Scripps Health as an administrative coordinator at Scripps Green Hospital. Five months later, at age 29, she discovered a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with cancer. Initially stunned by the unexpected news, she rallied quickly when her Scripps physicians explained that cancer was only a word and that she could beat it.
“My entire world changed,” says Michelle. “I was frazzled and scared, but I had Michael to rely on and I put my trust in my Scripps cancer care team.”
Michelle went through a regimen of chemotherapy, followed by a single mastectomy and radiation therapy. It was an ordeal, but her treatment and recovery went well and she was back on the job and ready to start the next chapter in her life.
In 2010, she learned that she had a genetic mutation associated with an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. After considering her options, she decided to proceed with the second mastectomy. Never letting her health issues get in her way, Michelle pursued her career at Scripps, with an eye on becoming a radiation therapist.
But after completing her treatments, Michelle learned about a full scholarship program at the University of Phoenix from a friend. Intrigued by the possibility of going to graduate school, she decided to apply, writing an essay about her ordeal of the previous two years and her determination to conquer cancer once and for all.
In 2011, Michelle entered the MBA program on full scholarship. That same year, Michael proposed and the two began planning their wedding. Life did not calm down for Michelle. A multi-tasker at heart, she combined her coursework with her wedding plans and in June the two married.
“Michael stayed with me through this whole ordeal. In my rawest form, he still made me feel beautiful. It’s a testament to the strength of our relationship.”
Michelle is today a six-year cancer survivor with a strong sense of compassion and caring for others struggling with cancer. Throughout her arduous surgeries, treatments and recoveries, she has shared her story and offered hope and inspiration to other young women diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been an outspoken blogger, a guest speaker on college campuses and on the local news, and a fundraiser for the cause.
“I am just so grateful for the care I got and I want to help others have the best information and options and care. I can’t thank my Scripps caregivers enough. Thank you for being my umbrella on my rainy days and my flashlight when I walked through the darkest tunnels. Everyone deserves that kind of support.”
Cancer is a frightening diagnosis, but Scripps physicians and researchers offer the most advanced cancer care. And supporters and donors like Michelle can make all the difference in the world. Donate today.
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