"You have breast cancer." Those were the words that changed Laura Esparza's life. Laura has worked as a sonographer at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System for 27 years, conducting breast ultrasounds on women and men with suspicious masses found on mammograms. In 2010, Laura had her annual mammogram and when the physicians delivered the results, she discovered she was about to enter the toughest journey of her life.
"I went in for a routine annual screening at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - Westover Hills," said Laura. "When I got my results, I learned I had stage two invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast - I remember the moment like it was yesterday"
Laura had just helped her beloved dog, Mitzi, battle breast cancer two years earlier.
"I often think about my dog's battle because it's a good reminder that cancer does not discriminate. Breast cancer affects both women and men," said Laura. "That's why mammograms are so important. We should all be aware and take precaution. Early detection is key to survival."
Laura underwent surgery and radiation therapy and was cancer-free just a few months after her diagnosis. Today, she is a 4-year breast cancer survivor.
"It was a very difficult time for me, but thanks to the support of my family and friends, and my strong faith, I did not let breast cancer control my life. We fought it together," Laura said. "I was blessed to have so much support from everyone at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa - from the Associates to the physicians and my radiologist. They stayed connected and were there for me every step of the way. It made my breast cancer journey a little less difficult."
Laura says that although it was a tough battle, she sees her breast cancer diagnosis as a gift.
"This experience was a gift that allows me to help others by sharing my story," Laura added. "People don't truly understand the journey - the fear, the questions, the uncertainty - unless they've been through it themselves. When I faced my battle with breast cancer, I was the first in my family and didn't have anyone who completely understood what I was going through. I'm so happy to be able to be that person for someone else."
Laura is a breast health awareness advocate, often helping the Friends of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Foundation with fundraisers that support the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Mobile Mammography Unit, most recently speaking at the San Antonio Stars post-game jersey auction fundraiser.
First-time mother Amanda and her daughter Bailey are just one mother-baby pair that has benefited from the Every Baby Matters Mission (EBMM) at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - New Braunfels.
"I was still getting to know Bailey within those first two weeks of bringing her home," Amanda said. "I was overwhelmed and didn't know what to do. The EBMM nurse, Michelle, addressed my concerns, helped me with breastfeeding and also showed me different techniques for burping, sleeping and swaddling. Nothing fully prepares you for a baby, so having help from a knowledgeable, friendly professional in the comfort of my home was so reassuring. Michelle was wonderful!"
Amanda is more confident than ever and grateful for the reassurance and education she gained from Michelle. "When I was told about the EBMM program at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - New Braunfels, I didn't hesitate to participate. I've learned so many important skills from Michelle that will help me with Bailey and my future children and that's priceless," Amanda added. "Having her come to our home was so convenient. It's a lot of work to prepare for an outing with a baby, so we were go grateful she could come to us!"
The Friends Foundation has been essential in providing funds in support of the EBMM at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - New Braunfels. Serving nearly 400 patients annually, the program allows new mothers the opportunity for in-home visits by a registered nurse following delivery. The nurse provides educational information on maternal and child health issues and child development, as well as a medical follow-up for mother and baby. The EBMM program is a free service available to high-risk parents, ranging from teen mothers with pre-term babies to those with feeding or social issues. The ultimate goal is to gain sufficient funding from the community to be able to expand the EBMM and make it available to all new mothers.
Read about about the work of the Friends Foundation and what we're doing to make a difference.