There is an old saying that I am sure we’ve all heard before, “friends are the family we choose.” This couldn’t be more true about my best friend, Tema. Tema and I are two months apart and I have been lucky to call her my friend since the day I was born. In fact, because we grew up together, in many ways she is more than a friend-she is like my sister.
Growing up, Tema and I spent every summer together. She was and still is the ying to my yang. From American Girl dolls with matching outfits, to boy bands, to actual obsession over boys and their mysterious ways, Tema has been there for everything. Through the years we’ve laughed a lot, cried a little, and always had each other. As we’ve gotten older and settled into our lives as adults, we haven’t seen each other as often as we should, but no amount of time or distance can ever really keep us apart.
On August 30, 2014, Tema called to tell me something that would change our friendship forever-she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tema is 25 years young. She is a beautiful, intelligent, fun-loving civil engineer who works with LEAD green buildings to help our enviornment. She has an amazing family, a great boyfriend, friends that adore her, and a smile that is contagious. She is tenancious, terrific, tremendous, Tema. Only now, she is Tema with breast cancer. However, it is important to recognize that Tema is so much more than cancer. She is not cancer, cancer will not take over her life, and she will not let it dampen her resilient spirit. We know that cancer won’t be a defining moment for Tema. If anything, it will be a blip on her screen of life-something tough that she went through but overcame. I can’t wait for the day that we find out she is in remission and is officially a SURVIVOR. Until then though, she will keep being my inspiration and my hero.
In honor of our national philanthropy as a sisterhood, and with her permission, I wanted to share Tema’s story. Tema is just like us, and honestly, her story is reminder that cancer doesn’t discriminate and it can affect any one of us at any moment. As a Gamma Eta at the University of Florida, I will always remember the fundraising events that we put on for breast cancer awareness and research. I knew then that it was an important and admirable cause to support at the time, but I never imagined that it would hit so close to home, and especially not when we were twenty-somethings trying to figure out the rest of our lives. When Tema told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew I had to do something. For me, that something was sharing her story with our sisterhood and putting a face to the cause that we always support as Gamma Etas.
This year I am asking our sisterhood to think of Tema as we rally for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she goes through her first round of chemo, and adopt her fighting spirit and unrelenting optimism. They are two of her best qualities.
This month is only the beginning of her road to recovery, but I am hoping that just like she is my adopted sister, we as sisterhood can adopt her for our fight against breast cancer.
Hoy y Siempre,
Nicolle Serenity Vasquez