I have an inspiring story for you this month that you will not want to miss, everyone. Seeing that October is breast cancer awareness month, I would like to introduce you to the lovely Iris Vasconez.
I connected with this vivacious lady with her vibrant smile on Instagram when I started following her page with a profound message. Life goes on after breast cancer. Surviving devastating experiences do indeed make us stronger. Iris stopped by Trex to Tigress during her busy travels, and took the time to answer my questions regarding healing, positivity and pursuing her passions after being given a second chance at life.
1. When and how did you discover you had breast cancer?
October 2010, I was 43 and living what I thought was the peak of my life, since I had a successful career in NY city’s garment district, while making Cancun my second home as it afforded me work and play at the same time. By pure coincidence I accompanied a friend to the Dr. to see if she was expecting a baby. While we waited the Dr. invited me up on the ultrasound bed to check out my so called “pimple”. It’s important to note that I got regular check-ups. And regularly felt lumps on my breast that disappeared with my period. But there was one lump that stayed constant for a long time. We called it “the pimple”. My Dr. knew exactly where it was, its size, its shape, and its color. On this day, and only three months since my last checkup, my well-behaved “pimple” had changed its size, shape and color. It went from round shape to cashew shape. It had serrated edges instead of soft and smooth lines, and it was darker in color. From the moment he saw this change he ordered biopsy immediately and after the longest 10 days in my life I was diagnosed stage two.
2. What kind of emotions did you experience when first diagnosed?
I had very mixed emotions. I remember calling my Mom and saying I have good and bad news. The good news is that we know it’s Cancer. The bad news is we don’t know which one and how far spread. Even when they said stage 2 I thought its nothing. And I considered for a bit not getting medical attention because in my mind, it would just go away. I also thought this is what God sent me, why fight it? Why force God’s hand? So many excuses not to face it and go get serious help. Now I know I was just very scared of more truth about something I knew nothing about and had no control over. I felt impotence. My life flashed by forcing a quick analysis to find out why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong? Why did I deserve this? Lots of questions that I wasn’t able to answer.
3. What treatment(s) did you undergo to fight the cancer?
First, radical mastectomy of my right breast. Followed by four months of chemotherapy every two weeks. Two months of radiation daily. Three breast reconstruction surgeries. Five years of remission taking Tamoxifen daily. And now I am officially on the hospitals survivors list with ten more years of daily Tamoxifen.
4. I’m so happy to hear you’re on the survivor’s list! How did these treatments make you feel physically?
The hair loss was a huge shock and was the point that I remember thinking: this is really happening, I am really sick, it’s no joke, it’s not a dream….
Hair loss was a given. I always had my hair down to my waist. Dr’s warned me that I would lose all of my hair by the second chemo. So before I even got started with chemo’s I decided to cut and donate my hair for a good cause. I found a company that makes wigs for kids also fighting cancer. The younger we are, the more self conscious we are as well. Me at 43 looks didn’t worry me , however it was another strike to my womanhood. First my breast, then my hair. What next I thought? I understood I was being humbled day by day. So I myself never wore a wig. I actually thought I was beautiful even without any hair. And that I attribute to my faith in God, my age, and the positive people around me.
The morning after my first chemo, half my hair was loose in my pillow. I remembered I cried like a baby as I shaved off the hair that had yet to fall off. That’s the only time I remember crying. My Mom says there were other times but I don’t remember except for just this one time.
The chemo also made my bones hurt, turned my stomach, made me weak. I was given 5 Percosets /Oxycoden per day for the pain. But thanks to my thoughtful and caring friends, they offered me cannabis instead which was better than the pills, it took my nausea away, it made me hungry, it made me laugh and relax. Cannabis is not addictive while oxycoden is. Only took the Oxy when the pain was unbearable.
5. How did you keep a positive outlook when fighting this disease?
God and my TRUE friends! Facebook was a great help for me because it helped me stay in touch with everyone good/bad/ acquaintances ….. . I posted what I wanted them to know. I could not get on the phone (no energy or emotional strength) and repeat the story over and over, the same thing to different people, and talk about what was happening to me when I myself didn’t know what was happening to me. I cut almost everyone off from phone and personal interaction. I communicated all via FB. Only a few selected friends were allowed to visit as I had good days and bad days. I didn’t want anyone seeing the bad. I posted only good stuff. I didn’t want anyone seeing me unsteady or anyone to think I was loosing hope, losing the battle. I didn’t want any of my friends looking at me with pity. Just a look from someone can transmit to you, and I didn’t want to deal with those weak people who needed help themselves. I focused on me.
Below we’ve jumped ahead to question #9 where Iris speaks about Flyboarding and her new relationship with our sport.
Please visit FromTrextoTigress.com to read the entire interview.
9. That is truly amazing! You look very athletic. How did you come to love flyboarding? Are you using this sport to spread breast cancer awareness?
Flyboarding for Cancer is yet another thing that happened by coincidence. I had tried it a few times at the beach on my own, until one day Flyboard Mexico was putting a girl’s team together. I was too old at 47, but I moved faster and more fearless than any of the young girls trying out. I was the first Flygirl in the team of 9 training to compete professionally. I got hurt this June while training for the North American Flyboard Championship requiring major surgery and retiring me all together from future competitions. And that’s how I started to Flyboard for Breast Cancer Awareness. Since I am committed to travel, and know that in my travels there will always be a Flyboard where ever I go, I decided to fly for a cause and raise awareness and education. I still don’t know where this is going yet, but that’s what makes life exciting and worth living.
Flyboard For Breast Cancer Awareness
So three months after foot surgery Iris was Flyboarding for Breast Cancer Awareness with fellow Pro Petra Wijnker. The smiles in the pictures shared say it all. Having not been through anything even close to what Iris has battled I take her advice to heart and certainly don’t want to take even one moment of my life for granted. My family did the Run for the Cure here in Victoria, BC and we encourage all of you to provide any support you can in the fight against breast cancer.
Thank you Iris.
Iris messaged us about an upcoming event being held in Cairo and organized by Wael Abdou of Flyboard Egypt. We will try and add photos from that event here when they become available.