Juana is 37. A single parent and meat-packing plant manager, she works 12-hour shifts and supervises 42 people. Recently, she received her associates degree in criminal justice at ITT Technical Institute, Omaha. She would like to pursue a bachelor's degree at UNO, but that goal has to wait. In October 2012, Juana was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Juana's cancer is genetic. Three aunts have had breast cancer, and two have passed away. She has had two mastectomies, and will undergo an ovarian hysterectomy. Currently, she faces 11 rounds of chemotherapy, and likely more rounds will follow. She still has her hair. But it won't be long before she needs a wig. The time has come to talk to her 12-year-old son, Brandon, about the full impact of her illness.
Juana was born in Guatemala and came to Nebraska in 1994. She became a U.S. citizen, graduated from Lexington High School, settled in Lexington and bought a home there, though she works in Omaha. She is married. But for the last four years, she has been separated from her husband.
The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), a Susan G. Komen Nebraska Grantee, has given Juana some financial assistance, including buying her some groceries. “This is a great group, always sharing, always trying to support us,” she said.
These days, Juana tries to buy time to spend with her son. She feels that the two of them are deserving of some indulgences. Work has allowed her some time off, but she still needs her job long-term. The bills keep piling up. She has student loans, and she will need a wig. But Juana is unfazed.
“I try to be positive. The bad is going to pass,” Juana said. “I am strong.”