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Blog: COVID-19 Lessons from a Cancer Survivor

As Outreach Coordinator for the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection program, Shelby Guzman meets lots of heroes facing cancer with courage and determination. Shelby understands a cancer diagnosis creates uncertainty and concern about the future. Today, as we each confront the threat of COVID-19 in our community, she shares lessons from a cancer survivor. en español

Like many women, Bernarda discovered her breast cancer by accident. 

Awakened by an uncomfortable fluttering in her chest, she called for help. The doctor who responded determined her heart was healthy but noted a lump in her breast and advised her to seek a mammogram.

When the mammogram showed an abnormality, she visited an oncologist for further follow up. Her breast biopsy revealed that she had breast cancer, and she soon began a regimen of chemotherapy. Her treatment concluded with a mastectomy and radiation. A year later, she remains cancer free.

“I got very scared and began praying,” Bernarda recalled. “I decided when I received the diagnosis from my doctor,  I’m going to fight this. I’m going to survive this.”

COVID-19 threatens to drag fear and worry back into her life, but Bernarda is a warrior — not a worrier. To get through this challenge, she relies on strategies that helped her fight cancer: follow medical advice and stay optimistic.

“Because I have survived this battle with cancer, I put a lot of value in faith,” she said. 

While her husband is required to keep working, Bernarda is staying home and taking precautions due to cancer treatment compromising her immunity. She stays connected to people she loves on social media and in phone calls. 

Anyone confronting cancer, or other serious illness, has no choice but to adapt to a new normal, Bernarda notes. Today, COVID-19 is forcing all of us to adapt. We all must cope with uncertainty and face unanswerable questions about the future. Her advice?

“Keep going.  People have to keep hoping. Faith moves mountains, I had faith that I would make it through my cancer journey. For those who are sick or not, you must have faith. You are not alone in this. We will make it through,” Bernarda said. “This will be over.”

And one more thing, she adds, “make yourself a healthy smoothie….It really helps.”

Bernarda’s Healthy Smoothie

3 Medium Sized Beets
6 Carrots
1/2 leaf of Aloe Vera

Wash, peel and cut beets and carrots into small pieces.

Place beets and carrots into a blender and blend until smooth.

Take your aloe vera and cut off a portion of the bottom and top of the leaf, rinse off any yellow ooze.  

Cut off both spiney sides of aloe vera leaf.

With your leaf laying flat on a cutting board, carefully slice away the skin of the aloe vera leaf.

Run your knife between the outer green layer and the thick, clear gel at the center, and repeat this process for the remaining top layer by flipping it to the bottom. 

Place gel into blender and blend until smooth

Serve and enjoy!