Listen to Signs of Cancer

“Anyone can get cancer, listen to your body” For Leslie Alejandra Lopez Luna cancer was the farthest thing on her mind. After undergoing treatments, surgeries, and personal struggles, Leslie has found support within the American Cancer Society club here at Chabot College.

Leslie was 18 when she was diagnosed with skin cancer, Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP). However, her story began two years prior, at 16, Leslie had felt a lump in her left arm. The reality was these were connective tissue cells in the middle layer of her skin, which grew to the lump she found on the surface layer.

Every six months consists of full body checks, and yearly MRI scans, but every day Leslie performs self-body checks to feel for any possible symptoms.

Before Leslie was admitted to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, she was seeing a dermatologist who would remove the lump, which they believed only to be a cyst at the time. But as they continued to remove the lums, they were still finding bits of the cancer, and suggested that Leslie seek help elsewhere.

“I was kind of left on my own to look for doctors,” Leslie was grateful that she had the support of her family to assist her in finding the right medical treatment, but it did feel a little deserting to be in this position at such a young age.

Although UCSF is a children’s hospital, Leslie (who has now passed 18) is still able to receive treatment. Her doctors are very familiar with DFSP and believe her condition will be stabilized or possibly gone before she reaches 25.

Right now the MRI can’t detect cancer because the tissue build-up is too small, Leslie has to wait to see if it grows more and if it’s still as severe as it was before the beginning of treatment.

Leslie has spent most of her college experience through Zoom, making it easy for her to work around her schedule. She did have one in-person class right before the pandemic.

Leslie felt a bit intimidated at first. After reaching out to her professor about bringing a bag with her that held her medical devices, Leslie felt more comfortable in the environment.

“I noticed some students would look over wondering where the nose was coming from” The students at the time weren’t aware that the little noises were coming from Leslie’s bag.

Her professor assured that there wasn’t anything to worry about. Leslie grew comfortable with the other students, the majority made up of other women, and had a bond with many at the end of the semester.

Leslie has stuck to online classes for the 2022 spring semester, but is hoping to be back to in-person classes as soon as possible.

Leslie found a great sense of support in the American Cancer Society Club (ACS)here on campus. A new club to the school that tries to bring awareness to different kinds of cancer, and possible symptoms, as well as raise money to donate to cancer research and treatments.

Running a new club hasn’t been easy for founder and president, Emily Lou, but she has made the most of what she can through the pandemic. Emily was proud of the fundraisers the club was able to achieve last semester. The club participated in the 2021 Relay for Life of the East Bay and collected over $1900 in donations.

This semester ASC will be hosting a booth once a month that’s dedicated to spreading awareness of specific cancers.

March is kidney cancer awareness month, the ASC club set up in the Cesar Chavez plaza on Mar. 21 with their bright orange ribbons to hand out, as well as to encourage students to have the courage to talk about cancer concerns and not discourage possible symptoms.

“Being part of the club has given me a microphone.”

Leslie has enjoyed her contribution to the club, from spreading awareness to making small gifts to other patients in treatment. One of her most prideful moments on campus was sharing her story with other students and educating them on the realities of treatment and finding support systems.

Image courtesy of Lupe Hernandez

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