After several misdiagnoses, Lorena discovered she had aggressive stage 3 breast cancer. She was scared, of course, but she found a clear path forward with Atrium Health and the love and support of her best friend, Cherie, whose daughter happens to have survived cancer more than once. Today, Lorena continues to fight, and winning is in clear sight.

News | one month ago

How One Friendship Helped Lorena Restore Hope in Her Fight Against Breast Cancer

After several misdiagnoses, Lorena discovered she had aggressive stage 3 breast cancer. She was scared, of course, but she found a clear path forward with Atrium Health and the love and support of her best friend, Cherie, whose daughter happens to have survived cancer more than once. Today, Lorena continues to fight, and winning is in clear sight.

Lorena and her family first moved to the United States when she was a young teenager. In the years that followed, she settled into Shallotte, North Carolina where she started a loving family with her significant other, Alberto, and their three young children.   

Lorena immediately became worried when she discovered a lump in her breast. To get a second opinion, she went to Alberto’s boss, Cherie Steele, who was all too familiar with signs and symptoms of cancer based on her past experiences with her daughter, who happened to be a cancer survivor herself – she survived neuroblastoma and thyroid cancer and has had a pre-cancerous breast tumor removed.  

Cherie feared the worst but trusted she could help. They set out to have the lump examined. The first community clinic they visited said the lump was not a cause for concern and sent her homeNot long after, Lorena got into a car accident that left her breasts covered with bruises. When she went to have her injuries evaluatedher community clinic concluded her symptoms were a result of her accident injuries.  

Months later, Lorena’s symptoms worsened to the point that she developed a fever and other concerning issuesCherie knew she needed to take her in for expert care, so she brought her into Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center. After further testing, it was confirmed that Lorena had aggressive stage 3 breast cancer.  

With a Clear Diagnosis, You Can Begin to Find Help  

Hearing that you have cancer are words no one can prepare forLorena was instantly worried about her children and the financial burden that this would place on her family. What would they do if she didn’t survive? She felt so frightened that she could hardly eat or leave her bed for a month. Cherie, who had helped save her daughter from cancer’s grasp, gave Lorena a huge hug and promised that everything would be okay.   

With Cherie by her side, Lorena was soon connected with Arielle Heeke, MD, her primary oncologist who specializes in breast and surgical oncology at Atrium Health Pineville’s Levine Cancer Institute. 

Due to the care Lorena has received over the past year at LCIshe continues to feel stronger each day. She notes that despite the financial stress that comes with cancer, everyone on her care team has given her 100of their attention, care, and support.  

Outside of hospital walls, Cherie has seized the opportunity to step in to act as Lorena’s caretaker since Lorena primarily speaks Spanish and is limited in resources needed to care for herself and her family. From planning appointments and packing her wounds to driving her to LCI to visit with Dr. Heeke, Cherie has become a best friend to Lorena. She even helps Lorena care for her children. Cherie proudly stands by Lorena’s side through everything 

“This situation is complex,” says Cherie, “but there are certain aspects of humanity that you just can’t ignore.” Atrium Health agrees, and that is why they make it a priority to provide Lorena with the best of care.  

Family and a Sense of Home Help Us Through   

Today, Lorena is finishing up her treatment. She will undergo one more year of chemotherapy and recently began taking anti-estrogen pills, which she will take for five to ten years. She has been through a lot in the past couple of years, but thanks to her incredible support system, including her care team at LCI, she is nearing the end of her battle with cancer – and she is winning.   

Lorena, Cherie, and the care team at LCI feel hopeful despite the challenges, pain, and sickness Lorena has endured. They know that together, and with the steadfast support they receive from the teams at LCI, they can make it through this.  

Never Give Up  

Nearly one year after her diagnosis, Lorena’s message to others is this: “Never give up, because life keeps going. What happens, happens. You must continue to fight and find ways to remain positive.  

Today, Lorena is making it her mission to help others who may be fighting the same battles. She wants to share her story to let other women know that if she can beat breast cancer, they can too. Her children are her reason to fight and her reason to live. She is going to keep fighting until she wins – and today, she is winning thanks to the incredible care she’s received from Cherie and her team at Levine Cancer Institute.

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