2013 Gloria Gemma ʻCelebrate Hope, Celebrate Lifeʼ Calendar Will Feature Young Survivor From Cranston

PROVIDENCE, RI – (October 5, 2012) One Cranston woman featured in the 2013 calendar, Sue-Ellen Jimenez, is using her story of diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship to raise awareness and remind young women to practice regular breast self-examinations (BSEs), crucial to increasing early diagnosis and decreasing mortality rates. Jimenez, 32, knew something was wrong in 2010 when she felt something unusual in one of her breasts, but waited a year before going to the doctor.

“What did I know as a young person,” Jimenez asked rhetorically, “and how could I know that what I was feeling was really unusual?”

Jimenez, who is a biology student at Rhode Island College, probably knows more than the average person about the subject. Still, there was no history of breast cancer in Jimenezʼs family so she thought the chances of her having the disease were “slim to none.” After an ultrasound and two mammograms, on the day Jimenez received the news that she in fact had stage one breast cancer, she was on her way to get her car fixed.

“My doctor asked me to come into the office but I was busy,” Jimenez laughed, “and Iʼm stubborn. But I knew something was wrong.”

Jimenezʼs doctor finally told her, over the phone, “I want you to come in because you have cancer.” Jimenez said that, once she heard those words, her knowledge of science did not comfort her. “It didnʼt make it any easier to deal with,” she said. “I just cried.”

Jimenez underwent a lumpectomy in April and has completed chemotherapy and radiation. But her feelings toward survivorship have been complicated.

“It took me a little while to accept,” she said. “It was this big secret.”

To Jimenezʼs dismay, when people inevitably found out, they sometimes treated her differently. Classmates and coworkers—Jimenez used to bartend in Providence—often made an excessive fuss upon hearing of Jimenezʼs illness.

“People would look at me and ask, ʻHow are you feeling?ʼ” Jimenez remembered with humorous overemphasis on the word, “feeling.” Others tried to bond with Jimenez by talking about their own crises that never seemed, to Jimenez, comparable to cancer. “I just didnʼt want anyone to treat me differently,” she said.

“Sometimes I donʼt feel like a survivor. I donʼt know if Iʼm there yet because Iʼm still in treatment,” said Jimenez referring to an ongoing Herceptin regimen.

Jimenez connected with the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation through a young womenʼs breast cancer survivor group at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence.

“At first I was a little apprehensive because, in my mind, I didnʼt think anyone could understand or relate to what I was going through,” she said. “But after a few visits, I could see the similarities and my perception really changed.”

Of the new relationships she has formed, Jimenez said, “It was a relief.”

One of the women in the support group, Mandy Zito, was an intern at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation during the 2012 spring semester, Zitoʼs last at University of Rhode Island. It was Zito who approached Jimenez about appearing in the 2013 “Celebrate Hope, Celebrate Life” Calendar. Jimenez was happy to oblige and considers the calendar an opportunity to reach out to other young women. Jimenez is looking forward to returning to Rhode Island College in the fall to finish her biology degree. She said sheʼs considering continuing on to medical school and becoming a doctor.

The 2013 “Celebrate Hope, Celebrate Life” calendar will be included in the November issue of Rhode Island Monthly, sponsored by Gem Plumbing, South County Hospital, and RI Rehabilitation Center.


Leave a comment

Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

previous arrow
next arrow