Maria Clara Londoño, #GetFit Mexico Ambassador
For Maria Clara Londoño, being diagnosed at 32 with breast cancer represented a before and after in her life. Maria Clara, a mother of three boys who were 2, 4 and 6 years old at the time, was looking to have a fourth baby. A regular checkup revealed one of her worst fears: she had inherited her mother’s predisposition towards developing breast cancer.
Now, cancer-free and 24 years after being diagnosed, the entrepreneur and mother of one of GE Mexico’s employees, talks about how early detection saved her, the importance of cancer prevention, and being a proud survivor.
How did you react to this life-changing news?
It was a milestone for me, a before and after event in my life. I went to regular check-ups, even when I was young I knew it was advisable considering my family background; my mother got cancer in two different occasions.
I remember that whilst getting the mammography, the nurse asked me not to leave the room until the doctor spoke with me. That’s when I realized something was wrong.
It was quite a shock for me to be diagnosed. My main fear was leaving my kids at such a young age. I panicked thinking that my children could grow up without a mother.
I spent a lot of time investigating with many doctors from different specialties. I already knew many physicians that treated my mother, so I relied on them for support. My sister advised me to get surgery from both breasts, given our genetic background.
The surgeon told me it was a very strong decision, which could bring me emotional consequences, individually and as a couple. The anxiety didn’t let me sleep. But I took the decision of getting the surgery, and the reconstruction at the same time.
It is a very difficult process, but it was one of the most important decisions that I have taken, because it helped to get over this episode and carry on with my life. My tumor was on the verge of becoming invasive, but it encapsulated. I was very fortunate, so I was very grateful that given the illness, I had a chance.
Did you change in any way your attitude towards life?
You start to see life differently. I have always been very healthy, a sportswoman, and suddenly I had the possibility of dying. I had to choose between two paths: to feel bad about myself, or to keep on going on, dealing with my reality.
I decided not to spend my life feeling sorry for myself, but instead to thank God for being alive. Fortunately, the tumor was removed in time and I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation.
I learned that in life you can’t be paranoid, but you shouldn’t live in denial either. I have met people that have refused to accept that they have a tumor, and unfortunately they have passed away. I do think that it is important as a woman to have regular checkups. That’s what saved me.
Did you start having different health habits for you and your family afterwards?
I have always done a lot of exercise. Now I try not to eat a lot of cheese and fatty foods. I also try to avoid smoked foods, as well as heating food on plastic containers. I hardly use the microwave.
You never know if it can happen to you, I tried to do everything in my power to avoid it, but I couldn’t, due to the genetic factor. But you must be aware and alert.
If I used to enjoy life, I do it even more now. You learn that there is no tomorrow, because life can change in a second and you must live in the moment. You should be grateful for today. Today we are here and we can’t know what tomorrow brings.
As a survivor, what advice would you give to people facing a similar situation?
I believe that obstacles in life must be faced, and the sooner, the better, because most of them have solution. Since then, I have enjoyed 24 years without any relapse. You have to make the decision to move on with your life.