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Six words. That’s all it takes to turn a person upside down emotionally, mentally, economically. “I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.” It’s something you don’t want to say, hear or believe.
Aurea Lopez, sister of local jockey Carlos Lopez Jr. had to face those six words head on one morning in August after X-rays discovered a cancerous tumor in her right breast.
“She worked at Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia, taking care of retired sisters in the nursery home,” said Carlos. “She did her routine, took the sisters out the bed, helped them take showers, get dressed. One day, she went to take one of the sisters of the bed and as soon as she pulled the sister up, she felt something here,” Lopez pointed to underneath his arm. “Pain, pain, pain, pain. She almost fell on the ground because there was so much pain. She knew something happened.”
After the incident Aurea noticed a lump in the same region where she experienced the pain earlier. She waited to see if the lump would subside by morning, but when she woke up the next day, nothing had changed.
“The next morning she went to the doctor,” said Lopez. “He told her she had a tumor on the X-rays.”
Although breast cancer is one of the greatest challenges Aurea has had to face in her life, she is no stranger to a battle. Aurea was diagnosed at a young age with a form of the blood disorder Leukemia. She spent her childhood in and out of the hospital, going to appointment after appointment with doctors who were not sure she’d even make it past the age of 10.
“She fought Leukemia up until she was five or six-years old,” said Lopez. “My dad, in Puerto Rico had to ask for blood donations. She almost died. But she didn’t. She survived. It’s a bad situation that she has right now with the breast cancer and Leukemia. It’s tough for her.”
Saturday, November 23 Laurel Park will have a special winner’s circle presentation for Aurea and her fight against breast cancer. In addition, all jockeys the 5th race on Saturday’s card will wear pink goggles donated by Kroops. In a just over a week, the Maryland circuit has raised over $4,300 dollars ($2,300 in donations from the Maryland riding colony and an additional $2,000 from the MTHA board approved by President Tim Keefe).
“She’s coming on Saturday. I told her we collected $2,000 for her the other day and she was so happy. I just want everybody to be there, take a picture with her, and have fun. That’s it. It’s something that is sad but we have to have some fun with it.
Carlos not only wants to use Saturday’s presentation to represent his sister, but also on a bigger spectrum.
“I want people to think about cancer,” said Carlos. “Don’t wait until the last minute. Get check out. And also learn about things that you can do. Whether it be for a family member or a friend. We on the racetrack are so close. Someone we know is affected by cancer. You never want to hear someone died from cancer. You want to hear they survived from cancer.”