“ Cancer is a journey that is not traveled alone and even if you don’t have family or friends nearby, there is a whole community of cancer warriors out here who are willing to take your hand and walk beside you through your journey.
Angela Saunders is a mAss Kicker who knows how to appreciate living life! Angela is very involved in the cancer community through the American Cancer Society’s Chula Vista (California, USA) Relay For Life. She works as a Payroll Specialist by day and is very involved in her local community in her spare time. She is the Board Treasurer with Just Sayin; Feeding Our Homeless in the 619 and a member of the Fundraising Committee in the Chamorro Cultural group, Irensia Dance Troop. We are very honored to sit down with her and hear her story!
mK: Thanks for doing this Angela! How did you find out about your diagnosis?
AS: Initially? I discovered a lump in my right breast while taking a shower. Oddly, at the time, I was singing my own personal shower concert, “My lovely lady lumps…” lyrics to a song by The Black Eyed Peas. After poking at it for a while to make sure it was really there and I wasn’t imagining it, I called my doctor and made an appointment. A few appointments, specialists, and tests later…it was official. Stage 1A, ER+ ductal carcinoma diagnosed on 01/19/07…just 3 days before my 7th wedding anniversary.
mK: What were your symptoms?
AS: Before diagnosis, I just remember being extraordinarily tired for no good reason and my boobs hurt like I was lactating or something! I DEFINITELY wasn’t having any more babies, so I knew that wasn’t the issue! Other than that, I felt pretty normal. I ended up having a lumpectomy, 33 radiation sessions, and then hormone therapy (Tamoxifen). I was last diagnosed on 09/16/14 with breast cancer again, but on my left side. I was lucky to have it caught early again, so it was basically a repeat of what I went through the first time.
mK: How are you doing now? What are you up to?
AS: I feel good now and just excited about life! Still occasionally tired, but I think that’s just life, you know? I do what I can to keep active and volunteer as much as I can in the cancer community to give back and have fun while doing it! Relay For Life is now a permanent part of my life and I fundraise year-round for the cause. 2016 was my 10th Relay year and I have loved every moment of it. I’ve Relayed in El Cajon, Chula Vista, La Mesa, San Ysidro, Downtown, Imperial Beach, Poway, Scripps Ranch, Escondido, Downey, and even in Guam! Yeah, this girl here is bleeding purple every day! I have been the Event Lead for the past 2 years for Relay For Life of Chula Vista.
mK: What motivates you?
AS: Waking up each day motivates me! My gosh, what a blessing that is! My husband and kids are also key motivators in my life. I would do anything for them! My hubby and I have 3 kids and 2 grandkids and every day that I have them in my life is motivation to get to the next day!
mK: Big families are AWESOME! A tumor/cancer diagnosis introduces you to new set of family members… fellow survivors! Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
AS: My husband is definitely my hero. I would say that have lived a huge part of my life as my own worst enemy and I like to say that he saved me from myself more times than I’d like to admit. More recently though, the survivor brothers and sisters I have met in the cancer community have become my heroes in ways I couldn’t otherwise explain to anyone else. Unless you have been through it, you just don’t get it. Each and every story is unique, but one commonality I find in each of them is the courage, strength, determination, and tenacity we survivors have. Not to toot my own horn, but DAMN…we survivors ROCK!
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
AS:.Oh my! I laugh…A LOT…and at almost everything! Laughter is the secret to a good long life, I believe. You either hate my laugh or you love it, but what I get a lot is that it’s contagious. I also cry a lot. Often times, they are happy tears, and other times, it’s because I’m just a sappy girl! I cry when I see expressions of love or simply because I ran out of cookies. LOL I work hard not to get angry and I could even venture to say that I can count the number of times I’ve been genuinely angry on one hand…ok, maybe one and a half, but still…life is too short to be angry!
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
AS: Most interesting, hmmm…Oh, I know! Most recently, I was a van driver for a group of friends running the Ragnar Relay Series from Huntington Beach to San Diego. 12 Runners, 2 drivers…all 14 of us cancer survivors! We were the first team in Ragnar history to be comprised solely of cancer survivors!
mK: Very cool! What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
AS: Besides surviving? LOL I guess I would say being understood. The emotional rollercoaster is not one that is understood by many. Like I said earlier, if you haven’t been through it, you just don’t get it. I would also say that telling your family is extremely hard. As a wife and mother, my first instinct was to protect them, to worry about them, and to find ways for them to deal with it.
mK: Switching gears… what is your guilty pleasure?
AS: Singing and dancing when no one is around! Oh my gosh, if I could have been born with a voice that could carry a tune!!! I absolutely LOVE music…all genres and would sing and dance all darn day if I could!
mK: OK, here’s a weird question for ya… If you could live for 1 year in any part of the world all expenses paid, where would you live and why?
AS: Wow, there are so many places in this world I want to go! I’m originally from Guam, but would love to eventually see ALL of the Pacific islands. I’d also love to go to Europe, to Dubai, to Africa…LOL. I could go on forever! As busy as I am though, perhaps I should stick to an island to start so that I could just hang in a hammock for a year on a beach somewhere and learn how to just relax!
mK: What is next on your agenda?
AS: To live the hell outta this life! We get ONE shot and if cancer has taught me nothing else…it’s to get up off of my butt and truly LIVE! Anyone can exist day to day, but I plan to take every moment and make the best out of every single one!
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
AS: Try not to panic. Easier said than done, I know. The truth though, is that treatments have improved and survival rates are at an all-time high. Reach out to organizations like the American Cancer Society for resources and lean on your friends and family for support. Cancer is a journey that is not traveled alone and even if you don’t have family or friends nearby, there is a whole community of cancer warriors out here who are willing to take your hand and walk beside you through your journey.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
AS: I am a MAJOR foodie! I’d try anything once and pretty much eat just about everything! While I know I should eat better, I just LOVE food and wish I could steal Guy Fieri’s job from him! LOL
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
AS: Keep on kickin’! I believe those of us who have survived, survived for a reason and have been given a purpose. We need to continue the fight for those still fighting and so that one day those 3 little words, “You have cancer,” will be no more!
Angela Saunders: extreme foodie, travel addict, dancer, professional shower singer, loving wife/mother/grandmother, “sappy- crier”, contagious laugher, family-centric soul, and proactive breast cancer thriver. Thanks for doing the interview Angela! We’re looking forward to hearing more great stories from ya! Check out Relay for Life Chula Vista.