EL PASO, TX (KVIA) — Sometimes, beating breast cancer doesn’t stop the fight. For Ilan Rios, it was the beginning of a years-long battle that staked her life.
ABC-7 Celebrates Victories and Perseverance of Survivors During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October
In May 2013, Rios discovered a lump in his left breast. She was 37 at the time and she had never had a mammogram.
“I went to Juarez for a mammogram,” she said in Spanish. “They said I didn’t have any and I could go home.”
Rios has admitted that he prioritizes planning for his daughter Quinceanera, taking care of his two young sons, and managing his family over his own health concerns. Additionally, she did not have health insurance.
Soon, the lump became too big to ignore.
“It just kept piling up,” Rios said. “In November, the lump was big, like a stone. It was really bad.”
She returned to Juarez but went to a mammologist. Her biopsy confirmed what she had suspected six months before her. In other words, the lump was getting bigger. Rios remembered that the doctor said it was the size of a grapefruit.
Nonprofit provides life-saving assistance
Rios said she cried in her car in the hospital parking lot after learning she could not afford treatment. A friend of hers introduced her to the Texas non-profit Cancer Consortium. It’s her recommendation that she believes saved her life.
“I don’t know if I’m alive, I don’t know,” Rios recalled through tears.
Chemotherapy shrank the cancer, and Rios underwent a double mastectomy and was in remission in August 2014.
But Rios said it wasn’t even the hardest part of her journey.
More life-threatening conditions emerge
Rios contracted a bacterial infection while undergoing breast reconstruction surgery in 2015.
“When my oncologist saw me, he said MRSA could be in my blood and I could die at any moment.” It was spread out on the other side.”
After a month and a half of treatment, the MRSA went dormant and a more normal life resumed. But after recovering from her COVID-19 in the fall of 2020 during the pandemic, Rios learned that her breast cancer had spread to her ovaries.
“God has a mission for me”
Rios is now in remission. To prevent recurrence, oral maintenance therapy is being continued every day, and monthly check-ups are being conducted.
It’s unclear what will happen to her health, but she said the love and support of her family has always been a source of strength.
“They support me in everything. My husband is a great husband,” Rios said. “I have to think positively, and God has a mission for me.”
Rios uses her experience to help people who need help beat cancer of all kinds.
“Now I’m going through her chemo with a friend,” Rios said. “Prayers for those out there.”
She also encourages the women in her life, and women in general, to take care of their bodies and their health.
“We women don’t put our lives on hold when things change,” Rios said. I will not stop my life for
ABC-7, the Estela Casas Cancer Foundation and the Albertsons stand wanted to show their support for Rios and provided a $250 gift card to the grocery store.