Her diagnosis came as no surprise.
At the age of 44, Katherine Contreras had already braced herself for what seemed inevitable. Before genetic testing for the breast cancer gene was even available, she had already come to accept that breast cancer was part of not only her history, but her DNA. Her battle with breast cancer began long before she was born; her grandmother had passed away from it and so did her mother. It was a legacy that the females in her family had left with her that she didn’t want, but was prepared for.
After her initial treatment, Katherine was in the clear and was in remission. As an energetic mother, wife, and kindergarten teacher, Katherine was excited to face life with a renewed sense of self. Six months later, her world turned upside down when she was told that the cancer had spread. In April 2004, Katherine was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic breast cancer: (an advanced/incurable stage of cancer).
By 2008 she was forced to retire due to clinical research studies, therapies, medications, surgeries and medical stays. “Teaching kindergarteners was where I belonged,” Katherine recalled. For the first time in her life, she was afraid that she would never feel joy again.
One day, I realized my focus was on what the cancer was doing to me and how to destroy it,” said Katherine. “That is such a negative outlook, and that wasn’t the way I wanted to live.
Katherine shifted her focus from just battling the disease to learning to live with it and accepting her diagnosis. “Whether I like it or not, cancer is a part of my life,” says Katherine. “I now see clearly what is important and what is not. I have never felt more empowered to be in control of my life, my time, and my energy.”
With her new positive outlook, she began volunteering at The Pink Ribbon Place in 2010, giving hope, raising awareness, and supporting other women with breast cancer. Over the last 7 years, Katherine has committed over a thousand volunteer hours to The Pink Ribbon Place and its thrift shop, Pink Ribbon Thrift.
Nearly 14 years after her diagnosis, despite countless treatments and unexpected setbacks, Katherine has maintained strength through her volunteerism, activism, and family.
Every day, I choose to be happy,” said Katherine, “and to continue living a life of joyful gratitude.”