In Elba Contreras' family, breast cancer crossed generations. The disease had claimed the lives of the Locust Valley homemaker's grandmother and mother. Despite normal mammograms over the years, the mother of four feared she would become its next victim.
One day in 2000, while practicing yoga at a local YMCA, Elba, then 50, felt a lump in her right breast. Tests confirmed her worst fears: stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. "I thought I was going to die from it, just like my mother and grandmother did," she recalled, now 70.
After undergoing a lumpectomy, a half-dozen rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation, Elba had to take an oral hormone medication for 10 years to prevent a recurrence.
"I cried a lot in the beginning, but as time went on, it got easier," she said. Faith, the support of her family and the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program "saw me through my illness."
"Every month or so, I would go to a meeting and they would talk to us to see how we were coping and answer any questions we had. They even talked to my daughters who were worried about me and they helped them with their feelings," Elba shared.
Today, Elba has been cancer-free for two decades and is paying it forward to the Adelphi Breast Cancer Support Program. Several times a year she volunteers with the program's outreach services to underserved communities to raise awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection.