Latinos Doing Their Thing…
Every 21 seconds, someone is diagnosed with cancer and over one million people are diagnosed annually.
But, those statistics can hide how isolating the experience can be, not only for those diagnosed but for their family and loved ones as well. One inspiring Latina has provided a solution to this challenge for communities around the globe.
A shocking discovery
Born in Cuba, Mailet Lopez migrated to the U.S. in 1980 as part of the Mariel boatlift. She grew up in Long Island and with the guidance of her parents was able to master a new culture and the English language. Along the way, she developed a passion for design, earned a degree in Graphic Design, and enjoyed a very successful career in new media.
In 2011, Mailet co-founded Squeaky Wheel Media, a minority- and woman-owned, award-winning digital communications agency in New York City. Lopez was already a Latina immigrant success story. But in March of 2008, at the age of 33, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Like many diagnosed, her first thoughts were: Huh? Did I hear correctly? Really? Me?
Turning a crisis into a lifeline
Mailet was fortunate enough to beat her cancer (and has been cancer-free since undergoing surgery and treatment). She credits her survival, in part, to an accidental meeting with a woman who gave her advice on a treatment option she never even heard of. This experience gave Mailet an idea, which ultimately led to the creation of IHadCancer.com, the world’s first social support network for those affected by cancer.
Mailet explained the origin of the site by saying, “I didn’t find options when I was diagnosed to connect with people with similar diagnoses….to find out what it was like to deal with it.”
Launched in July of 2011, I Had Cancer allows cancer survivors, fighters, those newly diagnosed, and the friends and families of those affected to connect with one another and share their stories and experiences of dealing with the deadly disease. With the help of Mailet’s extensive knowledge in web design and development, the award-winning site has grown to over 6,000 members in over 80 countries.
A safe haven
I Had Cancer is a place where individuals come to share, be inspired, learn information, and find the resources to move forward with less fear and more confidence. The user-friendly site allows users to browse the online community by age, geographical location, year diagnosed, and type of cancer. The discussion boards are chock full with real questions and real answers. Currently, the site also lists meet-ups in New York and New Jersey. Perhaps the most touching (and rawest) reflections on the site are the Letters to Cancer in which one person writes, You took away my childhood…but I still won the race.
Numbers show that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Mailet Lopez recognized that everyone who has ever been touched by cancer has a story and created an essential space for them to be shared.