Cancer does not discriminate. Actresses, models, singers, beauty queens, television personalities…the list of celebrities who have battled cancer always seems too long. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we honor those famous Latinas who’ve battled the disease. Some have won and some have lost; others are still engaged in the fight. All, by sharing their stories and struggles, have helped raise awareness of the importance of early detection and preventive screening exams.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, Puerto Rican actress Adamari Lopez, then 33, underwent surgery and chemotherapy. She is in remission and still undergoing maintenance treatment, and has served as a past spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
Bárbara Mori, the Mexico-Uruguayan actress protagonist of the film Insignificant Things underwent treatment for breast cancer when she was only 29 years old. She appeared in the 2010 documentary 1 a Minute, with celebrity cancer survivors Olivia Newton John and Kelly McGillis, among others.
Ana Maria Polo, famous for her television program Closed Case, was 46 years old when she had a mastectomy. She celebrates that date like her second birthday, because the breast cancer was detected in time. Now, as a survivor, she untiringly campaigns throughout Latin America and the United States to promote breast cancer awareness.
Mexican actress Lorena Rojas became a spokeswoman for Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, at 36. The cancer was then at its initial stage, and her treatment was deemed a success. The press leaked news of Rojas’ second diagnosis earlier this year, allegedly before the actress was ready to disclose the information.
Daniela Romo managed to overcome breast cancer after several chemotherapy treatments, and shed her famous long locks as a result of chemo. She has publicly shown her support for friend Lorena Rojas.
Mexican actress Patricia Reyes Spindola shared with her fans that she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. On a video on her YouTube page, the famous actress explains how she found out the news, faced the disease and what the experience has taught her.
One of the most recent and well-publicized breast cancer diagnoses in Spain was that of President of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre. She had surgery in 2011, and in September of 2012, resigned from her political post. Though she stated that she resigned to “spend more time with family,” speculation is widespread that concerns about her cancer led her to resign.
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GONE TOO SOON
In 2010, Miss Venezuela 2001 Eva Ekvall, then 28, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five months after the diagnosis, Ekvall decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. She wrote a book, Fuera de Foco (Out of Focus) about her struggle. She died on December 17, 2011, leaving behind a young daughter.
Colombian songwriter Soraya was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer at the height of her musical career, at age 31. She publicly acknowledged her illness, as her mother and grandmother had both suffered from the disease. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and subsequent treatment. Two years into remission, cancer reappeared. Soraya passed away in May of 2006, leaving a legacy of music, hope and courage.
Rocío Dúrcal, a Spanish singer who was well known for singing Mexican rancheras, was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2001. In 2004, cancer cells were found in her lungs. She died in 2006, leaving behind a successful career and a family.
Spanish songstress Rocío Jurado lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in June of 2006, the same year as Soraya and Dúrcal. She was just 60 years old, and had enjoyed a nearly 40-year career as Las más grande of Spain.
The Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, died on July 16, 2003, seven months after surgery for a brain tumor. The Cuban-American, who defected in 1950, was one of the most celebrated Latin-American singers in the U.S., and more than 200,000 people viewed her body lying in state in Miami. According to her wishes, she was interred with soil from Guantanamo, Cuba, the island home she was never permitted to visit after her defection.
For some of these brave women, early detection and rapid treatment has meant the difference between life with cancer and death from cancer. Still others who lost their battle did “all the right things” and succumbed to the disease despite their efforts. This month especially, Mamiverse salutes their courage and tenacity in the face of often brutal odds.