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Mother, daughter fight breast cancer (video)

By JR Ortega
May 11, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.

Dionne Vela, left, and her mother, Linda Amaro, talk while watching Vela's daughter's softball game Thursday at the Victoria Youth Sports Complex. Amaro was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, which encouraged Vela to see a doctor, who told her that she also had breast cancer. Despite traveling  and dealing with the physical toll of treatments, the women still enjoy watching Vela's children play sports.

"Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah," is what Linda Amaro heard in October - the voice of what sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher saying indecipherable nothings.

Amaro felt the world stop, and she felt the air leave the room.

"You have breast cancer," the voice of her oncologist became clear now, as did the reality of her diagnosis.

The 48-year-old crumbled. She felt defeated and broke the news to her tight-knit family.

Her only daughter, Dionne Vela, 33, worried not only for her mom but also for herself. She decided the lump in her breast could no longer be ignored.

One week later, Vela took Mom's advice and went to get checked.

Within hours, the doctor came into the room, and the same muffled voice began, unveiling a harsh coincidence.

"You have breast cancer."

The diagnosis

The tail end of 2012 was a hard time for the mother-daughter duo from Victoria.

Today, the two lean on one another even more because of their bond through cancer. While this Mother's Day will be strikingly different from those in the past, the two feel even closer.

"I wasn't important anymore," Amaro said through tears about her daughter's diagnosis. "Everything changed. As a mother, she was important."

Amaro, who works at Wal-Mart Supercenter, first felt a dull pain in her left breast in September. The soreness lingered until her husband finally convinced her to see her doctor.

She had no lump, so the process took days, until Oct. 23, when she received the call that she had breast cancer.

Vela stayed strong for her family, but in secret, she would find time to let the tears flow.

As her mother began coping with her diagnosis, that's when Vela found out about her breast cancer.

The diagnosis took one day.

Vela's lump was large and had metastasized. A biopsy confirmed her worst fear.

"I cried for days," Vela said, dabbing a tissue under her eyes, careful not to smudge the makeup that still makes her feel beautiful. "Your life flashes before your eyes. I know they say that a lot, and it really does happen."

Though diagnosed with the same cancer, there is something very different about the two that makes it hard for any mother to understand.

"Mine is an early stage," Amaro said. "But Dionne's is not."

An unbreakable bond

Vela, a stay-at-home mom, doesn't like thinking of her cancer in stages, but the truth is she is at stage 4.

"The stage is what scares you," she said.

Immediately after being diagnosed, Vela had eight aggressive chemotherapy treatments to downsize the tumor, which was the size of a grapefruit.

In about one week, Vela will begin radiation treatments, while her mother just started chemotherapy.

They both coach one another about what they've experienced.

Vela shares the frightening reality of waking up to find clumps of hair on her pillow, and her mother shares what a 13-hour-long double mastectomy with reconstruction feels like.

Her mother is not the only one in the loop. Vela has made her cancer a family affair. When she decided to shave off her hair, she made a party of it.

She laughed, and she cried.

Both have not let their cancer stop them from living life. Every morning, Vela wakes up, puts on her jet-black wig, applies her makeup and pulls some of the best fashion in her closet off the hanger.

"I never wanted them to see me sick," Vela said of her husband and three children.

She refuses to let her cancer get the best of her or her mom.

The two continue going to softball and baseball games for Vela's children. They make it a point to laugh at the world - and even themselves sometimes - because that's how their family pushes through, they said.

"I say it's been a good adventure," Vela said.

"We're a very close family," Mom chimes in. "We're going to get through it together."



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