“I have never asked “why me” I know why me. I got cancer because cancer can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime. Because we haven’t found a cure. We will find a cure; we have to find a cure. It is our responsibility to deliver a cancer free world for generations to come, so our sons and daughters don’t have to experience the ravages of this devastating disease”, Bibiana Salmon/Survivor Speaker 2012 Relay For Life Of Doral Kickoff /September 21st 2011 Doral Park Country Club.
Bibiana Salmon is a Doral resident for over 20 years; her name has always been associated to the fight against cancer, becoming a personal fight. Her grandfather died when he was 50 years old (stomach cancer) her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer (she has been a survivor for over 30 years), her father is also a survivor (17 years, lung cancer), but her husband Alberto died at 38 (melanoma) On November 2010 Bibiana was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she is alive, after massive surgery, intense chemotherapy, 3 emergency admissions and 6 weeks of radiation.
For her, cancer became a personal enemy that needed to be destroyed. Since 2002 she has been member of the steering committee for Doral Relay for life. With her daughters she concentrated in fundraising, education and advocacy. For a few years now, she also participates in lobby day at the state and federal levels. Doral family Journal asked her to share her experience with our readers, in order to support every single effort to fight back this malady. As she said; “cancer survivors are the ones who really know about cancer, about the uncertainty, the despair, of every hour, of every day”.
DFJ: What did you feel when you were told you had cancer?
Bibiana: When I heard those 3 words;” You have cancer”, it did not come as a surprise, but I immediately thought about my family, specially my daughters, who already lost their father to cancer. I knew that I had to do whatever it takes to beat this disease. When they tell you that you have cancer, nobody knows how aggressive it is until further testing is done. You don’t know what type of enemy you are fighting. My experience with cancer made me very aware that I didn’t have time to waste; cancer can kill you in a very short time, so I took action as fast as I could.
DFJ: What was your first step? Tell us about the process of your treatment and your fight with this illness
Bibiana: The first thing I did was to check with my insurance what network providers I could use, surgeons, oncologists, hospitals. I made the appointments to begin the process as soon as possible. I had two biopsies, one in September and the other one in October. I was fortunate in that my insurance covered Sylvester Cancer Center, where the doctors work with the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital. These are teaching hospitals and research oriented.
Then I needed to make a difficult decision. I felt I had to have a double mastectomy to avoid metastasis to the other breast in the future, 22 lymph nodes were also removed from my arm. Although I was covered by insurance, the process to begin treatment seemed to take forever. Once you are diagnosed, you know that those cancer cells continue to multiply every day and it is very hard to sit and wait for things to happen. My cancer was discovered in early September and I had my surgery in late November.
After surgery, the second phase of treatment was chemotherapy. I went through six rounds of chemotherapy that lasted 4 months and was the hardest part of the process. It felt like I was being poisoned or tortured. During those months, I became very sick because my immune system and my body’s ability to fight disappeared resulting in three emergency admissions. Those are the effects of the medications we have available until research can develop better cancer drugs with less side effects. After the chemo, I needed radiation therapy every weekday for 6 weeks, 30 rounds altogether. I completed radiation last June.
Bibiana: Participation in advocacy is crucial. I have worked in “lobby day “at both state and federal levels for many years. We meet with state legislature and with congressional representatives and senators from every state in the nation; we represent millions of volunteers, cancer survivors, and everyone who has been affected by the ravages of this disease. Florida has a network of 350,000 volunteers so far. The private sector alone will never be able to raise enough funds to find the cure for cancer; the only way that cancer cure can be found is with the support of the Federal Government.
DFJ: What can you say to the uninsured people with cancer?
Bibiana: I would tell them that ACS and ACS CAN provide a network with a wealth of information and support programs available to cancer patients and their families. Many of them are free because they are implemented by volunteers. The reality is that there are not enough resources in place to treat people with cancer who don’t have insurance. They will be seen as emergencies only. That is a desperate situation. Without insurance you really don’t have access to early detection, or to expedite treatment, and that lowers the survival rate. This is why it is so important that more people become involved and participate to make access to cancer detection and treatment possible for everyone.
Bibiana Salmon plans to continue the fight for a cure, stay involved openly and spread their experience with cancer. “By sharing my story, I may be able to impact others and to convey that early detection and prevention makes the difference between life and death. I dream with a world without cancer, where our children won’t have to experience the pain and the losses that this devastating disease brings to us all.”