Amelia Tena is a nine-year, two-time breast cancer survivor who enjoys life to the fullest and believes in the power of being her own biggest advocate. First diagnosed in 2004, Amelia underwent a lumpectomy, four chemotherapy treatments and 39 radiation treatments. A recurrence in 2006 led to the difficult decision to have a mastectomy.
For the past eight years Amelia has been a source of encouragement and inspiration for her fellow support group members at the Winnetka location of the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara. “It has helped me in a lot of ways, meeting people, educating myself, having the support of other patients,” says Amelia.
Jacqueline Nederlk, MSW, LCSWI coordinates the CSCVVSB Latino Outreach Program that provides Amelia’s support group. “Amelia motivates the participants and provides hope through sharing her own experience with breast cancer and volunteering for CSCVVSB,” says Jacqueline. “Amelia calls participants to remind them of groups and events. She is very persistent and encouraging.”
A healthy lifestyle is a big priority for Amelia, who does tai chi and yoga offered by the CSCVVSB Latino Outreach Program. “It’s one of my favorite things to do to help me focus on my mind, body and soul,” she says.
Amelia’s cancer experience showed her how important it is to advocate for yourself and stay informed of all your options – a message she shares with other cancer patients as a volunteer with the Aliada program at the Cancer Support Community. As an Aliada, Amelia helps Spanish-speaking cancer patients navigate the health care system and stay informed throughout their cancer journey. “The more knowledge you have, the better control you have as a patient with your health and your emotions,” says Amelia.
Volunteering and working as a Health Promoter for a local environmental organization keep Amelia busy, but she still finds time to do the things she loves: spending time with her husband’s granddaughters, staying in touch with her sisters in Peru, walking outside, and reading.
“I am an extremely positive person, enjoying every moment of my life,” says Amelia, who has not let cancer steal her enthusiasm. “Life goes on and it’s beautiful to wake up every morning and see your family around you. I am so grateful to God for being the light of my life.”