Dallas ISD is going pink during October to celebrate and recognize survivors of breast cancer and increase awareness about advances in treatments for the disease. As part of the observances for the month, Dallas ISD staff shared inspirational stories of courage, faith and strength.
My name is Cipriana Portillo. I am a breast cancer survivor, and I have been cancer-free for 15 years. My daughter was 1 year old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Adriana is now 16 years old. I thank God for sending my baby, because I feel that she gave me strength to survive.
Louise Wolff Kahn Elementary School
Power to Fight
On May 29, 2015, Michelle Zada Hall was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen in addition to having a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, followed by radiation at the start of the New Year. Over the past five years she has had four additional reconstructive surgeries and feels extremely blessed to have an amazing team of talented and compassionate doctors and surgeons and her incredible faith. She loves and is grateful for the incredible faith and an army of wonderfully supportive friends, family, students, parents and co-workers who help encourage positivity and administer prayer. A talented dancer and dance instructor, she has never missed a beat during her treatment, because she was determined not to allow cancer to define her.
Michelle Zada Hall
Assistant Dance Conservatory Director and Director of the World Dance Ensemble
Booker T. Washington High School for the performing and Visual Arts
I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer 13 years ago, and now I can say that I am a breast cancer survivor. I thank God every day for his mercy. I pray every day to God for those people who are suffering from this or another disease to give them strength and faith to move forward. For me, faith in God and the support of my entire family and the doctors that God put in my way were the reasons I victorious and blessed for this difficult process.
Raúl Quintanilla Sr. Middle School
Feb. 20, 1997, is a day I shall never forget because that was the day a message was left on my answering machine regarding my surgery, which was scheduled for February 24, 1997. I asked myself, “What surgery is she talking about?” I thought she had dialed the wrong number. After calling the number that was left, I learned that my mammogram showed that I had breast cancer.
I was devastated. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. I had no symptoms. I could not feel a lump in my breast. It was diagnosed by way of my mammogram. After my surgery, I had to go back four days later to find out if any of my lymph nodes had been involved. Had the cancer spread? Waiting for those results, my family members joined in prayer in the doctor’s office. The test came back negative.
I went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment for eight months. I would drive myself to those treatments and go to work afterwards. I felt ashamed and believed that I had, in some way, caused this diagnosis. I did not want anyone to know what I was going through. I secretly prayed and asked God to please, don’t take my hair out. I did not want to go bald because everyone would know what I was going through. I did not want sympathy, either. Throughout my treatments, I did not get sick and I never felt weak. As a matter of fact, labs showed that my blood numbers were always “normal.” God answered my prayers.
As I went through this, I wanted to help others. I gave a testimony at my church. I have been speaking to other women who may be going through the same thing. I have made it my business to encourage anyone who is frightened by this diagnosis. I tell them of my struggles and my triumphs. I let them know that having breast cancer is not always a death sentence. It has been 23 years and eight months since that diagnosis. Each subsequent mammogram causes me to have some anxiety, but I have learned to place my complete faith in God.
For anyone reading this, if you have gotten this diagnosis, cry if you must. Get angry, if you must. But one thing that you MUST not do, is give up. Don’t give in. If you are in need of encouragement, support, prayers, or resources, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Patricia A. Washington
Social Worker, Special Education
Audra Scott, opera and gospel performer and teacher, was diagnosis with HER2+, stage 2 breast cancer when she was 38 after she noticed bloody discharge from her areola. She had a double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery and 12 rounds of chemo. She decided to have the double mastectomy because she has the brca2 gene that put her at high risk for cancer reoccurring, which she had seen happen to family members who did not survive. For her, it was a simple decision, “I didn’t even give them a chance to finish the question. I said, ‘Take them both, I don’t need them!’”
She did not let the diagnoses affect her passion for music, teaching, and family. Instead, she leaned heavily on her faith in God and the support of her family, friends, and students to carry her through as a survivor.
Director of Opera & Gospel, Musical Theater Vocal Coach
Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
Laticia Miles, middle
My mother, Laticia Miles, is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in July of 2018. It was the most devastating news
my family ever received. At that time, she was living in Bakersfield, Calif., and my sister and I decided that it was best that she move to Dallas so that we could take care of her as well as get her setup with the best possible treatments. In November of 2018, she made the permanent move to Keller where she now resides with my sister. My mother underwent surgery in July of 2019 and had to have her left breast removed. Surgery was a success, and, as of today, she is a walking, breathing, testimony that God is indeed a miracle worker. Through all the tears, pain, sudden loss of hair and frequent doctor visits, she has overcome one of the biggest challenges of her life. My mom is my hero, and I am extremely proud of her. She never gave up hope and continued to fight. She is now living a cancer free life and couldn’t be happier.
Teacher Assistant, Specialized Unit
Thomas C. Marsh Middle School
I am a 13- year breast cancer survivor, free from cancer since my chemo treatment. In the summer of 2007, after I told my deaf friend that I felt a lump in my chest, she suggested that I see my family doctor again because she had a friend who passed away from breast cancer. The lump never caused me any pain, but it developed quickly right after my yearly check-up with my doctor. I was diagnosed with almost stage 3 breast cancer in August 2007.
Teacher Assistant Deaf Education
Mockingbird Elementary School
I was hired by Dallas ISD in January 2020, and 20 days later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27. My tumor was 6cm long and stage 3. I started 16 rounds of chemotherapy in March. Soon after finishing chemotherapy, on July 28, I had a bilateral mastectomy. I am now doing radiation and am on the 15th of 33 sessions. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for me and my husband, but we have remained positive and very proactive throughout the treatments. In the middle of a pandemic and a cancer diagnosis, my husband and I have found so much joy in the little things and love feeling all the support and prayers from everyone around us. My hope for everyone is to be proactive about their health and take very seriously their annual checkups. I am that woman who works out every day, eats healthy and has no family history of cancer in her family, and still I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Know your body, and truly, feel it on the first.