By Lillian Bowe
Tanya Baca said she felt about a million different emotions at once when the 33-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer; shock, anger, sadness and other feelings she could not name.
Baca, now 35, has been cancer-free for three years and said she’s thankful for every day.
Baca has been working at Brown Early Childhood Center for six years as a secretary. She is married to Michael Baca and they have three children, Venessa, 12, Isaac, 9 and Emily, 6.
Baca said she had to be strong during her cancer treatments.
“People tell me all the time that they could have never gone through what I did, but you would be surprised by how strong you are,” Baca said.
Baca will be walking the survivor lap in Friday’s Relay For Life event. She answered questions about her fight:
What treatments did you go through?
I had stage II breast cancer and I also had the BRCA gene, which put me at a higher risk… With all that, my cancer was very aggressive and my cancer was treated quickly. I had eight rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation. I was diagnosed on Nov. 17 (2011) and I started my treatments Dec. 3. I also had a double mastectomy as they believe the cancer had moved to both my breasts because of how aggressive it was. I felt like I had no time to think.
What helped you through your treatments?
The biggest thing that I keep thinking about when I was going through this was my kids. I wanted to see them growing up and be a grandma. I wanted to be a part of their lives. God gave me strength to be there for my kids. I also had a lot of support from my family and my coworkers at Brown. They cooked meals and helped me a lot.
How did it affect you and your husband raising your three children?
My husband and I made life as normal as possible for our children. We did not hide that I had cancer from anyone either. We still took our kids to baseball and we went to their games. I did not want their life to be completely altered by my diagnosis.
Why do you think Relay for Life is important?
It is so important. It helps raise awareness for cancer and I know so many people that are affected by it. It also raises money to help people who can’t afford to pay for cancer treatments through the American Cancer Society. It also raises money for research that will help doctors find better ways to treat cancer. I joined Relay because anything I can do to help another person diagnosed with cancer the way people helped me, then that is what I want to do.
How has your experience changed you?
I don’t think about having cancer as a negative, but as a positive. I learned how strong I can be and I can help people with their own experiences with cancer. My children will benefit as they can be tested at an early age and be able to catch cancer at an earlier stage. I believe that God gives us certain paths we are made to follow and my path has made me the person I am today.