ST. LOUIS — As the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure prepares for its 20th annual appearance in St. Louis, so do the runners. In fact, much like watching the arms of a clock tick by each minute and hour of the day, those who relate to the namesake of the breast cancer organization may feel like their inner clock slowed when they received the news they never expected to hear.
With just two days to go until the race in downtown St. Louis, Today in St. Louis’ Abby Llorico spoke with one survivor whose personal story lies in the lingering past of family tragedy — although even that wouldn’t stop her from overcoming what seems unbeatable. And, even in her second language, she knew what the diagnosis meant: breast cancer.
“When I left for the United States, my aunt, my mom’s sister, was dying of breast cancer,” she said. “Of course, when you have cancer during that time, you are thinking about, ‘Oh, my God. I am going to die soon.’”
Pointing to a photo album, she finds an old photo of herself and remarks, “I lost my hair, all of them. This is a wig.”
“…the way I felt when I was on chemo, I was — oh, my God. You cannot — throwing [up] after you eat; you cannot eat,” she said. “I told my doctor I don’t want to continue my chemotherapy. I discontinued it halfway. I did because my body could not handle it.”
The Philippine native described the internal battle she fought with her breast cancer knowing full well her family’s history of the disease, saying in part, “I grew up with my grandma because my grandma keep saying, ‘You will never feel the love we have for you unless you have your own.’”
So, she did. Her daughter soon welcomed a daughter of her own — and suddenly, the message her grandmother gave her years prior was now sitting in her lap with open arms.
“And, you were born,” she said, directed towards Llorico. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I love these kids. I want to see them grow up.”
Herminina Llorico, the breast cancer survivor, is the grandmother to Abby. She welcomed Abby as her first granddaughter, a gift she wouldn’t give up for anything.
“Do you worry about all of us girls now because it’s genetic,” Abby asked her grandmother. Abby has two aunts, two younger sisters and four younger girl cousins.
“I keep praying, ‘God, please don’t let that happen to them,’” Hermina said. “But did you listen to the news about breast cancer this time?”
Laughing, Abby responds, “Did I listen to the news?”
Herminina is hopeful. She has faith in modern medicine, and she thinks it’s worth others believing in, too.
“I think it’s going to be better for you,” she added.
Herminina refers to the old photo of herself sporting the wig as she held Abby as a toddler. “Maybe God have plan for me. I really thought I would never see you grown up.”
“Would you say it’s like having something to live for? Having a reason to live,” asked Abby.
With confidence, Herminina gives a one-word answer, ‘Yeah,’ to Abby while citing a source of hope that she said helped pull her out of her funk — her faith with God.
“It’s true, Abby. You know, God answers my prayers. Everything I asked, it happened. I want to see you this time, I want to see you grown up, and I want to see you successful,” Herminina said. “And I want to more grandkid.”
Nowadays, Herminina is living a different life, one without an ongoing threat: “I don’t even have a trace of cancer right, you know. It’s really gone.”
“And you’re here to tell that story now,” Abby remarked.
Saturday, June 9, downtown St. Louis will kick off a two-day marathon, filled to the brim with survivors, runners, participants and supporters for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure. Both individual and team registration is open for Saturday and Sunday morning. The cutoff for online registration is Friday, June 8.