2018 Rose Parade: Colon, thyroid cancer survivor: Embracing the ‘new me’

November 28, 2017 | by Denise Heady

For the 46th year in a row, City of Hope will participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade. This year, 10 patients will welcome 2018 atop City of Hope’s Rose Parade float. The float, themed "Transforming Lives with Hope," adds a deeper dimension to the parade’s theme of “Making a Difference.”
 
Here, we meet float rider Rosemary Estrada, mother of a teenage daughter and a colon and thyroid cancer survivor.
 
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Looking at her, you would never guess that Rosemary Estrada is living with a rare genetic condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
 
FAP is genetic disease that predisposes a person to colon and rectal cancer. These cancers occur more commonly in some families because of a genetic mutation that significantly increases the risk.
 
Because of her condition, she has already endured 14 surgeries — she had her large intestine, appendix and gall bladder removed — battled colon and thyroid cancer, and has a very high chance of developing these cancers again.
 
Yet, the 35-year-old is cheerful and energetic, and often has her doctors baffled by how positive she is — especially while undergoing treatment.
 
“When I was going through chemo, my oncologist was like, ‘You’re so bubbly. Have you had Starbucks?’ I would tell him ‘No,’ and he would say, ‘Then what do you do?'
 
And I told him I just have learned how to be the new me,” said Estrada. “You’re either going to embrace it or not, and I chose to embrace it.”
 
While fighting two different cancers may have been difficult in its own right, most life altering for Estrada was the fact that she now has to wear an ostomy bag — an external bag that sits just below her stomach.
 
It’s not unusual for 35-year-old Rosemary Estrada to give complete strangers a glimpse into her life as she deals with the daily struggles of living with an external bag.
 
In fact, she even has an Instagram account dedicated to her journey with the bag. Her profile says it all: “Ostomy life for life and proud of it! Facing it all with a smile!”
 
And she doesn’t hold back. Estrada shares the good, the bad and the ugly of living life with an external bag.
 
In one post she’s being wheeled off to yet another surgery, while in another she’s showing off her newly dyed blue hair to showcase colon cancer awareness.
 
“I truly do love my bag,” said Estrada. “I want to show other patients that it’s not the end of the world with a bag. It does not define you, and it will not stop you. And you can do everything and anything and be normal. I mean, half the time when I’m walking around people don’t know I have an ostomy unless I say something.”
 
For Estrada, embracing her condition — and her bag — goes beyond acceptance. Because her condition is genetic, she had her daughter tested for the disease and the results were positive for FAP.
 
“It’s heartbreaking for a mom because you never want to pass anything down to your child. But I need to be positive for my child and show her that nothing’s going to stop us. Even if you have an ostomy bag, you’re still going to live,” said Estrada. "And I think that’s when I kicked out of the worry state and just embraced it and said, ‘Fine, I was given cancer to save my child’s life because no one else would’ve found another way.’”
 
Bringing awareness to this disease one of Estrada’s new missions. Going through the process, Estrada has found that there aren't enough resources available to patients like her. She wants to change that.
 
“I have this huge picture in life, more now than ever,” said Estrada. “I want to create a foundation that like helps collect donations for patients who have ostomy bags. Patients really have no resources and I think it’s helpful to have a person who can speak to their situation. I can tell them, ‘Look, I have a bag and I’ve had it for this long, and I’ve tried this and I’ve tried that and this works and this doesn’t work.’ I will do whatever it takes to raise awareness and be that person who can really speak to what’s going on.”
 

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If you are looking for a second opinion about your diagnosis or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-4673. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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