Councilmember María Quiñones-Sánchez reveals breast cancer diagnosis with Black and Brown women in mind
The longtime Philly councilmember received the diagnosis four months ago.
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In an op-ed published on Saturday, Oct. 30 in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez revealed that she has been privately dealing with breast cancer for the past four months.
Quiñones-Sánchez knew before going into her mammogram that she had a small lump on her breast, but because it wasn’t painful, she put off the appointment. This was a decision she later regretted when a biopsy confirmed the cancer diagnosis.
In August, Quiñones-Sánchez chose to have a mastectomy of her left breast, in hopes of avoiding chemotherapy and radiation. But her doctor informed her that in order to prevent future illness, the treatment plan would have to be more aggressive.
Despite the challenge, Quiñones-Sánchez was determined to maintain her work schedule. Three days after having her breast removed, she was in a Zoom meeting with staff.
Quiñones-Sánchez is currently in remission, but is undergoing chemotherapy at Penn Medicine, and is expected to begin preventive radiation in a few weeks.
In the op-ed, Quiñones-Sánchez reflected on the blessing of living in Philadelphia, where the medical care she received was high quality.
“My doctors tell me that by February, this entire experience may be in the rearview mirror. I feel lucky that even though I put off my mammogram, the cancer was caught early enough to be treated. I know this is not the case for everyone,” she wrote.
At first, Quiñones-Sánchez wanted to stay silent about her diagnosis until her treatment was complete in December. But when she got a short haircut — in preparation for the wig she would have to wear after losing her hair — people had a lot to say about it.
“If people had so many opinions about my hair, what would they think of this? It scared me to expose something so personal about myself. Until recently, the only people who knew were my husband, mother, children, and sister-in-law,” Quiñones-Sánchez wrote.
Throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Quiñones-Sánchez heard from many women speaking about their journeys in fighting cancer.
She also thought about the women she knew personally who have lost their battles with the disease, including her sister-in-law and a family friend. This is ultimately what prompted her to share her story.
“I have always prided myself on being authentic and accessible. The more I listened to these other brave women talk, the guiltier I felt about not being honest about my own experiences,” Quiñones-Sánchez wrote.
Throughout her experience, Quiñones-Sánchez had Black and Latina women in mind. While Black women are just as likely as white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer, Black women are almost 40% more likely to die from the disease.
Additionally, research published in the medical journal Cancer Control, found that breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. Latinos and it is the top cause of cancer-related death in that community.
In her op-ed, Quiñones-Sánchez encouraged Black and Latina women to use her story as inspiration to do breast self-exams, and get regular mammograms.
Days after her mastectomy, @MariaQSanchez was back to work. She didn’t tell her staff about her diagnosis until she started chemo. I can’t imagine the pressure of keeping this quiet for so long.— Erica Palan (@errrica) October 30, 2021
Women, please go get screened. https://t.co/WPhhWnffH6
“My promise to the women of Philadelphia is that I will be a strong advocate for wider screening options, more access to screening, and getting women of color more engaged in their health options,” Quiñones-Sánchez wrote.