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Going back to my early twenties when I had just moved to the United States from Colombia, I had an uncle that lived in Tennessee as an OBGYN and I was living in Tampa. I felt the lump so I talked to him, as I didn’t know anybody else, nor did I speak the language. I didn’t know what to do – I only had a sister who I was living with but my parents were in Colombia.
We all have a very strong relationship, coming from a large family, so we’re very close. I was one of nine sisters; I was probably the one that was a tomboy. I was always outside playing with the boys, playing all the sports. Growing up in a family of 13 children, being one of the oldest, there were 10 kids after me so it was very different – helping, changing diapers, feeding, babysitting, and helping mom. We didn’t have the opportunity to go to college or experience those years of youth because we were kind of mothers at a very early age. So, doing things outside was always an outlet for me, even to this day.
I believe that it [Susan G. Komen] has helped a tremendous amount of people, not just the survivors and unfortunately those who have not survived, but their support to families is amazing. It’s a very strong program. I believe 100% in the program myself and it’s why I’m here.
I’ve learned that life is not guaranteed. Life can be very short and you have to make the most out of every day that you wake up. Every breath that you take is a blessing. It makes you more resilient, more determined and definitely stronger. Being a mother I’m thinking I would not be here if I had not had the assistance that I had, the help that I received, so it makes you a stronger individual. Based on the fact that I am still here, I know that I have to give back. It’s my duty to give back, to say, “Hey if I did it, you can do it. Don’t ever lose your faith. There is always hope. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.” It’s humbling.
I believe that staying active helps you recuperate a lot faster from the side effects, because they definitely affect your energy. There are days that you can’t even get out of bed, so you have to drag yourself out. The Race for the Cure is always incredibly emotional – it takes your breath away sometimes. Standing there and watching everyone wearing their pink t-shirts, you know that a lot of those ladies are there because they are either survivors themselves or they’re running because they lost someone dear to them. It’s very, very inspiring to be part of that momentum. You can feel the energy, you can feel the anxiety, and you can feel all kinds of emotions when you’re not even talking to anybody. It’s very internal…it’s very quiet but at the same time you hear this loud emotion, very intense. The energy is tremendous. You run with a knot in your throat and you have to shed tears at the end because, I ran another race and I’m still here. It’s beautiful. You meet people that you’ve never met before and may never see again, but at that moment you are so linked together. I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful souls, beautiful people. I have run almost every race here in downtown St. Petersburg. The energy is just unbelievable.
Connecting with nature, when I’m running, that’s my temple. That’s when I’m closest to God. It makes me very strong, very determined. Catching every sunrise in the morning, it’s like “Thank you God I’m here again.” In the evenings, every chance I get I catch the sunset, because I know I’ve lived another day. ~Pila