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“Cancer changed me. It is as though I was born again, that God gave me another life to live . . . life is too beautiful to waste.”

~Maria Diaz

Lea la historia de María en español. 

Maria trying on a cap from the cancer resource center.

Choosing Life Over Fear, Surviving Cancer

“You have to choose life. To make the decision to fight and never give up,” said Maria Diaz, 64, of Corvallis, when asked what advice she has for others facing a cancer diagnosis.

In early 2020, Diaz began her normal daily routine. Wake up, get ready, head to work. On this day though, while applying deodorant, Diaz felt a hard lump in her left armpit. Not experiencing any pain or sickness, she continued as usual.

Some time had passed, and still not experiencing pain or sickness, but after continued persistence from her husband, Genaro Martinez, Diaz went to see her family doctor.

Maria hugging her grand daughter.

“My doctor believed right away it was cancer,” said Diaz. “To be sure, I was referred to Samaritan to get a biopsy.”

Days later at a follow‑up appointment, Diaz received the news. The biopsy confirmed she had locally advanced breast cancer, stage IIIB. Specifically, triple positive invasive ductal carcinoma. Triple positive breast cancer is a condition which tumor cells have positive estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and abnormal HER2 receptors.

“I felt sick. I didn’t want anyone to see me,” said Diaz. “I went straight to my room and cried.”

It was in that moment though, Diaz knew she had to fight, to overcome this cancer. She decided to stop working and focus solely on her health.

“I felt sick. I didn’t want anyone to see me, I went straight to my room and cried.”

~Maria Diaz

Maria's daughter-in-law placing a bowl of menudo on the dining room table.

Accompanied by her husband and one of her sons, Miguel Martinez, Diaz began the first of six rounds of chemotherapy in early 2021. 

“Chemotherapy was tough,” said Diaz. “My appetite was gone and I’m a good eater. I lost my hair and in an ugly way. I just felt bad.”

Very little sounded good to eat while receiving chemotherapy. Finally, her daughter‑in‑law, Yesi Martinez, discovered that freshly made tortillas and menudo, a traditional Mexican soup and family favorite, settled well.

“When the menudo was presented to me, I was sure I would get sick like I did with everything else. But I was able to enjoy several helpings, and the best part, keep it down,” Diaz said.

Maria's family sitting down to the family dining table to eat dinner.

Finding a food that settled her stomach during chemo was a big win. But her family wanted to do more. They wanted to help bring a sense of normalcy to their loved one during this difficult time.

“My family took me in for a wig fitting. It wasn’t for me though. I just didn’t feel like myself,” Diaz said. “One of my sons then found these lovely hats. They came in many different colors. Oh, how I loved these hats, and I even received many compliments from my care team!”

Chemotherapy was but only one step in Diaz’s treatment plan. Surgery was next.

“This was even more terrifying,” Diaz said. “I knew my surgery date was approaching, but I didn’t want to discuss it — not with family — not with my care team either. I was afraid that I would be put to sleep and not ever wake up.”

“You have to choose life. To make the decision to fight and never give up.”

~Maria Diaz

Maria, thankful for life, gazes into the distance on a walk. Walking was therapeutic to her during her treatment.

Needing to find calmness within her storm of emotions, Diaz would go on walks.

“Sometimes I would go out late at night — my husband keeping a watchful eye to ensure I stayed safe. Other times, I would venture out during the day between appointments,” said Diaz. “This helped slow my racing mind and ease my nerves and fear.”

After the left breast lumpectomy and removal of a large section of lymph nodes underneath the arm, Diaz started the third phase of her treatment plan, radiation therapy, a total of 28 rounds.

Maria and her husband sitting with grand daughter in in their living room.

Now, as a cancer survivor, Diaz, expresses her gratitude for family, the cancer care team and life.

“Getting cancer brought my family closer than ever. I felt so much love and support at every step. And, I cannot say enough about my care team — the doctors, nurses, assistants — they were all so kind,” Diaz said. “Cancer changed me too. It is as though I was born again, that God gave me another life to live. As I see it now, life is too beautiful to waste it.”

Looking to the future, Diaz has plans to return to Mexico to see more of her family, and to take the European trip she and her husband have always talked about.

Schedule Your Mammogram

A mammogram can find breast cancer before you have symptoms or notice a lump, and early treatment gives you more options. New advances like 3-D mammography is the standard of care at all Samaritan Diagnostic Imaging locations. This technology has increased the detection of breast cancer and decreased false positives.

Join a Cancer Care Seminar

Our Cancer Care Virtual Seminars are free to anyone interested in learning more about cancer. From breast health to nutrition guidance, cancer prevention and more, our local experts will guide you.  Join the next seminar or watch a previous event.

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