Survivor Series: Meet Minerva Sadorra
“I walk to keep up hope, keep sharing our community’s passion that someday there’ll be a cure.”
By ELLYN SANTIAGO
Minerva Sadorra’s breast cancer journey story is at once heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
Thirteen years after being first diagnosed, she goes “back in time”, a difficult place to go, to share her story with TBBCF: “Hopefully, telling my story will give me renewed courage to keep on going as a survivor.”
Minerva, who just turned 60, and her longtime supportive spouse Cheryl Pappas, live with their two cute dogs. Minerva enjoys writing poetry, cooking, walking their dogs in local parks, hanging out with friends and family, playing Scrabble, practicing yoga, appreciating local art and musical events and playing ping pong on occasion. She lives her life to the fullest.
A clinical development writer at Pfizer, she met Norma Logan at Pfizer in 2000.
“She had the most brilliant smile and energy,” Minerva recalled. Norma was then the manager of the department where Minerva started as a contractor. “She right away welcomed me with open arms.”
When Norma passed away, Minerva thought how “unfair it was that such a brilliant person” in her and others’ lives was lost.
But not really lost, Minerva said: “Norma lives on in her legacy as co-founder of TBBCF. She is always my inspiration.”
The breast cancer diagnosis: shocking and surreal
A decade after meeting Norma, in December 2010, Minerva was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer following a routine mammogram.
“It was shocking and surreal. All of a sudden I was inundated with a barrage of doctor appointments, MRIs, CT scans, blood tests, medical jargon and uncertainties,” she shared.
Minerva had a lumpectomy on her left breast, and her lymph nodes were removed. That was followed by 16 rounds of chemo and 30 days of radiation.
“I was 48 then and was in great condition except for cancer, so the doctors were confident that I could handle the aggressive treatments, so I said yes to the treatments to give me a higher rate of cancer-free survival.”
The treatment also involved taking Tamoxifen for 10 years.
“The chemo side effects were the worst. I couldn’t even do the down dog yoga pose. I was so weak at the end of the chemo treatments that it was such a big effort to go up the stairs,” she remembered.
Friends at her yoga studio, Blissworks, were a tremendous and positive support.
“They let me stay on my mat without doing poses when I attended yoga classes during my treatments, just so I could soak in the positive energy from the yogis,” she said. “Everybody was so supportive at Blissworks.”
Nine years later, Minerva was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer discovered through an x-ray ordered by my chiropractor; the cancer had spread to her bones.
She’d gone to the chiropractor “to figure out the pain in my left arm.” It was a pain so great, that no over-the-counter meds touched it.
“I spent some nights awake dealing with the pain. I just started going to the gym and lifting weights then, so I thought it was muscular. I went to the chiropractor,” she said. “The X-ray showed lytic destruction in the left humeral head, and my chiropractor advised me to see my oncologist right away.”
Again, she found herself ‘in shock and everything was surreal’
“So nine years after my first diagnosis, I received this news about metastatic cancer the same way I received the first: I was in shock and everything was surreal like I was not the main character of this story. I cannot believe it’s happening to me,” she shared.
The news was grave and it meant major life changes. Again.
“I can’t believe I have to cancel my long-awaited trip to New Orleans because I have to deal again with a barrage of doctor appointments, and medical procedures, etcetera, just like the first time,” Minerva said. “But unlike the first time, I was more in-tuned with my needs and how to deal with all these the second time around.”
What followed was palliative radiation to help with the pain in her arm, which helped. And then she began taking Anastrozole followed by monitoring procedures every three months that included biomarker tests, bone scans, and CT scans. In 2022, she “graduated” to procedures and tests every six months.
‘Cancer has changed the way I take care of myself’
“My life after diagnosis has changed my routine and my family’s. Now, there are these procedures I have to go to and meds I have to take, so these became part of my routine. I have to prioritize them. The month before my scans, my spouse and I can’t help but worry and get nervous about the next set of results. My family and friends send prayers and well wishes before my visit with the oncologist. So far, it has been stable. Then everyone has a big sigh of relief, followed by celebrations.”
But significantly, Minerva said, “Cancer has changed how I take care of myself.”
“I used to not eat breakfast until close to lunch because I jumped to work first thing. Now, I do eat before I start my day, take my vitamins and meds, walk my dogs, then start work,” she shared. “Since the cancer, I’ve been taking care of myself eating mostly organic foods, walking a lot, checking in with my body during the day to see what it needs, not just going going going without pausing. My can-do attitude starts with what I can do for myself first. This is a difficult shift for me since I grew up in a Filipino household and culture where we put someone else’s needs first.”
Now, she reminds herself to “take care of my needs first.”
“I also learned to be my own advocate.”
Minerva is a survivor, in spirit and practice.
“I guess I can say I’m a survivor because I’m still here,” she shared with a smile.
“I am proud and happy I’ve come this far. And I’m still going like anyone else, but not really because of the six-month procedures that I have to go through,” Minerva said. “I know there are unknowns and I have to deal with them – and so is life.”
Living with cancer has made her realize that, “Our basic needs matter most, like taking a break when you’re tired or being aware of how your body reacts. My body tells me what it needs if I slow down enough and pay attention to my feelings,” she noted. “And this really matters to me because I am my body, and what happens inside it is what I become, who I am, what I do, what I project and how I live life day in and day out.”
All along this journey, her family members and dearest friends, though some a thousand miles away, have been right by her side. And that includes neighbors and the yogis at Blissworks who she said, “Let me take space just to be in their energy. All of them helped by saying a prayer for me, taking time to say ‘hi,’ making me laugh, or just being there whenever I reached out to chat.”
For Minerva, TBBCF has also played a big role in her journey. She’s walked the TBBCF Walk many times since 2012. Along the way, she’s always been inspired by Norma.
“I keep walking,” she said, often with team Amy’s Army. “I walk to keep up the hope and keep sharing our community’s passion that someday there will be a cure. I’m hoping soon enough.”