Breast cancer survivor urges annual exams

Melissa Rodriguez is recognized by Hays County officials during Dating Violence Awareness Month. (Photo courtesy of Hays County)

It was five years ago when Melissa Rodriguez’ mother, who is a nurse, urged her to get her annual mammogram.

Rodriguez, who has devoted a lifetime in service to women and her community, considered skipping the exam due to her busy schedule.

There Rodriguez realized she had the beginning stages of breast cancer forming. The two considered leaving it, as there was a chance it wouldn’t develop, but Rodriguez tends to take a more proactive approach to danger, so she opted to have it all removed.After enough pressure from her mother, Rodriguez got the mammogram. She later received a letter in the mail detailing abnormalities, which meant a visit to a specialist.

Several weeks later, and a few unexpected complications left Rodriguez with the decision to get a full mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery.

“I was technically cured after my surgery,” Rodriguez said. “My daughter helped me pick out my implants and we tried to look at it with a sense of humor.”

But through the help of friends, family, doctors and a wide support system, Rodriguez was able to conquer what came after.

Eventually, Rodriguez recovered and rebuilt. She was offered a promotion at the HCWC, and decided to go for opportunity as a way to start completely fresh. Previously, she was working directly with victims and survivors, but as Director of Community Partnerships, Rodriguez is able to focus more broadly on breast cancer awareness.

Rodriguez said breast cancer and domestic violence are some of the most common threats to a woman’s life. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, while one in four women are going to become victims of domestic abuse.

While signs of breast cancer can be diagnosed by a doctor, Rodriguez said individuals can routinely watch for signs of domestic violence by checking in with friends and family, reporting aggressive and suspicious behavior and believing victims when they seek help.

“Breast Cancer isn’t really preventable – it can just happen to you,” Rodriguez said. “But domestic violence is preventable, and communities can work together to stop it. Both of these issues are recognized in October, but I think domestic violence is harder to talk about.”

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