Lorenza Guereca doesn’t often let other people see what a challenge living with cancer has been.
She said strong faith keeps her positive after years of treatments. Lorenza, who lives with her husband and daughter in Lafayette, In., said she doesn’t dwell on her illness and makes the effort to maintain an optimistic attitude despite multiple diagnoses, hair loss, and hospital visits.
“You always see me with a smile,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how stressful it is.”
The stress began when Lorenza’s 11-year-old daughter, Mariana, was a toddler, and Lorenza was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Chemotherapy and radiation quieted the cancer until it came back four years later. Lorenza received a transplant of her sister’s stem cells in 2011. She started a new drug treatment last year, and Mariana accompanies her to the hospital for scans to check her progress.
Friends and family offered support, but Lorenza said her upbeat attitude masked the strains of her experience.
“Unless you’re living the day-to-day in my shoes, it’s really hard to understand,” she said.
Lorenza said she cried with joy when a nurse told her about the Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat®, an all-expenses-paid program for families with a parent diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Lorenza and her husband, Rogelio, surprised Mariana on Christmas Day 2012 with exciting news: the Guerecas were going to Disney World and SeaWorld in January.
In Orlando the Guerecas rode roller coasters, took pictures with Disney characters, and watched fireworks shows. Lorenza said she remembers how happy Mariana was to play with other kids and volunteers at the retreat.
“It was great to not have to worry about any medical things,” she said. “After the roller coaster we’d been on for many years, it was nice for the three of us to take a stress break.”
Legacy Retreat® counseling sessions also introduced Lorenza to other parents living with illness, and she said listening to the stories of other parents inspired her.
“I felt welcome just being around the other families,” Lorenza said. “I was very excited that Mariana could be with other kids and hear their stories so she doesn’t feel like she’s the only one.”
The January 2013 Legacy Retreat® was life-changing, Lorenza said, and she and Mariana hope to return to IoH as volunteers.
Lorenza said her is family is using a break in her treatment to enjoy health and their time together. She participates in Relay for Life races, and the Guerecas have travel plans for the holidays.
“For now I’m just enjoying life,” said Lorenza, who said she expects to start a new treatment regimen in a matter of months.
Lorenza uses social media to stay in touch with volunteers and families she met at the Legacy Retreat®, friends who welcomed the Guerecas and understand the trials associated with living with a terminal illness.
“It’s a wonderful organization and we were very blessed to have been a part of it.”