For years, Yolanda Rodriguez participated in walks to raise awareness for breast cancer. She never dreamed she would one day walk a fashion runway as a breast cancer survivor.
“I had no history in my family at all,” Rodriguez, 56, told Metro. Nonetheless, she performed monthly self-checks and would get yearly mammograms.
Three years ago, the Brooklyn native discovered a rash and a lump on one of her breasts and immediately went to a doctor. “I was told, ‘It doesn’t look very good.’ We did a lot of crying, and after I was over the shock, we got a second opinion. Six months prior, I had my regular checkup, and there was not one sign that this was growing inside me.”
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The search for a second opinion brought her to the Maimonides Cancer Center in Brooklyn, which treats more than 7,500 breast cancer patients each year.
“It was like day and night,” Rodriguez said. “I was ready to fight no matter what the outcome was and had a team behind me not only at home, but at the center. All the techs, doctors, nurses — it’s inspiring how they make you feel.”
After being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, Rodriguez underwent 32 rounds of radiation and aggressive chemotherapy, which she still endures every three weeks despite being in remission — all while raising her two young grandchildren and, above all else, remaining positive.
“You have two choices: quit or fight. I chose to fight, and it’s got to be positive all the way,” she said.
It’s that positivity Rodriguez will put on display Wednesday night as part of the Maimonides Cancer Center’s annual Pink Runway fundraiser. About 25 patients, who are all in varying stages of treatment and recovery, will walk the runway in designer evening wear at Marquee on 10th Avenue in Manhattan.
Additionally, the center’s director and chair of the department of surgery, Dr. Patrick Borgen, will be honored for 10 years of service since founding the center in 2006.
“Maimonides is where I felt I had my best shot,” Rodriguez said about why she’s walking the runway despite being nervous about the hundreds expected to attend the event. “They’re the reason I’m here.”
And to her fellow cancer patients who may be struggling to remain positive following their diagnosis, Rodriguez encourages them to “surround themselves with people who love them and have positivity. If you have to cry, cry, but pick yourself back up because tomorrow is another day, and you have to fight.”