EL PASO (KDBC) — An El Paso woman was just 28 years old when doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. Nearly three years in remission, she said there's a strong reason why she lived to tell her story.
Esmeralda Avila, a mother of three young children, found what she thought was a pimple on her breast. A year later, she checked again.
"When I was looking for the little lump, it was still there, but it was bigger," said Avila.
After one visit, her doctor sent her to Lubbock for more tests.
Then one morning, doctors called Esmeralda to give her the results.
"She said you have cancer and I panicked. After that I stopped hearing what she was saying," Avila said. “I hanged up the phone and then I opened my eyes and I said, ‘I’m dreaming.’"
But Esmeralda wasn't dreaming. With her family by her side, she soon started the fight of her life.
"She wasn't one of those people that they would just give up easy. She was one if those persons that said, ‘I’ll do what I have to do to make it through,’" said her 9-year-old son Nathaniel Castillo.
Doctors performed a double mastectomy, reconstructed her breasts and started chemotherapy.
"I think I would sleep a lot. I would hardly eat. I started to swell. Of course, I lost my hair," said Avila.
After six to eight rounds of chemotherapy, doctors put her in remission.
Three years later, while she is not completely cured of the disease, she's a survivor in her own right.
"I learned to live again," said Avila.
"I felt like if I was a very lucky kid cause there's more other kids in the world that some of their parents die, but then I’m lucky that my mom is here with me," said Nathaniel.
Esmeralda dyed her hair pink to spread breast cancer awareness.
And she shares her story hoping other women - young and old - will be aware of the signs… and have faith even after diagnosis.
"I want them to know there is hope. You can survive this and you become stronger," said Avila. "God did give me a second chance and I want to put my life, my second rebirth kind of, to use and I now know that I wouldn't be this person if I wouldn't have gone through cancer."
This week, Esmeralda moved to Phoenix to continue her recovery.
She's in cosmetology school and hopes to open her own salon one day and help others going through chemotherapy. She said if you look good, it empowers you to keep fighting.