May 23, 2024
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By Gail M. Williams
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

In 2002, Mary Vasquez was a working mom in her 40s. When two of her children came down with the flu, she took them to the doctor.
“I worked in a lab testing masa, and I wore white all the time,” she said. “I was wearing a white shirt.”
“I need to see you as soon as possible,” Dr. Linda Bullock said. “Haven’t you noticed that you have a lump in your breast?”
After a mammogram and extensive testing, the doctor called to let Vasquez know they thought the lump was malignant. A biopsy proved that diagnosis correct.
“That was around the end of April in 2002,” Vasquez said. “On August 1, I went in to have surgery.”
The doctors at Joe Arrington Cancer and Research Center in Lubbock gave Vasquez a choice.
“They could remove just the right breast and five years later do the other one,” she said, “or they could remove both at the same time.”
Vasquez chose a double mastectomy.
“Tests showed the nipples and roots on left side had cancer already. I did right in removing both,” she said.
The cancer was caught at Stage 1. Follow-up treatments involved taking medications and making weekly trips to Lubbock for blood work for one month. After that, she had follow-up checkups every three months for a year. At this time, Vasquez, 63, has yearly mammograms and checkups every five years.
Treatment involved reconstructive surgery on both breasts.
“I guess it’s OK,” Vasquez said. “It was painful. Like, I know they’re not my breasts. It’s not the same. But everything went good. So far, everything is OK.”
Vasquez has a family history of breast and uterine cancer. Of four sisters on her mother’s side, three had breast cancer and one had uterine cancer, which involved a hysterectomy.
Rachel Gutierrez, Vasquez’ oldest daughter, passed away on Oct. 13, 2017, while she was in her 40s.
“She had a lump in one breast. They removed it, and it was negative,” Vasquez said. “Then, three years ago, she started having the lump again.”
Gutierrez’ mother, sisters and brother all pleaded with her to go in and have the lump checked.
“By the time she went in, it was too late. She was at the fourth stage,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez is also the mother of daughters Rebecca Toscano, Rhonda Toscano, Crystal Vasquez, Vanessa Morales and son Ricky Toscano. She has 15 grandchildren and four great-granddaughters.
She advises women to self-examine their breasts and have yearly mammograms.
“Take care of your body,” she said. “Talk to your daughters and make sure they do the same. It’s hard when you lose one.”



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