Battling Bruin: Elida

Posted November 2015

My name is Elida Ortega, and I have stage 4 breast cancer.

In May of 2014, I felt a pain in my breast, and after further inspection, I found a lump in my left breast. My husband took me to the doctors to have it checked out and was scheduled for a mammogram. When the results came back, I had to have both an ultrasound and a biopsy. In June, I was told that I had ductal carcinoma in situ, which means that I had breast cancer contained in the ducts of my breast. A lumpectomy was done to remove the tumor in July. The outer margins of the lumpectomy showed that there was still more of the cancer in my body, so in August, I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy, removing both breasts to be completely sure that all of the cancer was removed from my left breast and that there wouldn’t be any chance of cancer showing up in my right breast. After the surgery, all of the cancer was removed. My oncologist told me there was no need for any medication, chemotherapy or radiation. I was so happy to hear this news!

I regularly saw my oncologist. Every month my blood work continued to show that I was healthy and clear of breast cancer. All that was left to worry about was my pain from my previous major surgery, my mastectomies. I had to go to physical therapy for four months to regain my strength and mobility, while I continued to go to work regularly. In March of 2015, my reconstructive surgery was final and I returned to physical therapy in May and June. On May 9, I was thrilled to be with my daughter (Jessica) at the Transfer Bruin Day, where we officially joined the Bruin Family!

At the end of June, I began feeling excruciating back pain. At first, the pain left me just grasping my back as I was walking around and eventually, I could not walk on my own or even with help. My daughters called the ambulance and rushed me to the hospital. Once there, they did CAT scans, a bone scan and a liver biopsy. The results showed that I had a collapsed vertebrae. The doctors said this occurred because my breast cancer had metastasized to my spine. The cancer showed up in my liver as well. This news was shocking. How could this be when all of my tests had been coming back normal? I was healthy with back pain yesterday and today. For the past year, all of my tests and blood samples had been coming back normal—I was healthy!

After receiving the terrible news, I immediately had surgery on my spine. The doctors had to reshape one of my vertebrae and cement it back together. Finally taking away most of my pain, letting me eventually work my way to an almost comfortable laying position, then sitting position, and a stand. Once my back was taken care of, I was released from the hospital after calling it home for four days. Following this event, I underwent two weeks of radiation to my spine, accompanied by a regime of medication: pain medication, hormone medication and oral chemotherapy pills. My back still hurts. I’m constantly tired. I sleep a lot! But, I’m keeping a positive, fighting attitude. My family and friends have been helping me through this fight, making me stronger when I feel down, giving me hope when I'm not sure what to feel. I have been wanting to go to a football game at the Rose Bowl to see my daughter and the rest of the Spirit Squad perform, but I haven't had the energy to. Before the season is over, I'll be sure to make it to a game! Go Bruins!

About Battling Bruins » | All Battling Bruins »