Tiffany Arias spent each afternoon after school at her grandmother’s house: “she was always feeding anyone who came through the door. She made the best quesadillas- no one could make them like her.” In true grandmother fashion, she would hide candy around the house and made the every day extra special for her grandchildren. That’s why, when Mary was diagnosed at 68 with stage 1 breast cancer, the family was in shock. She was their true center and the glue of the family.
Mary chose against a mastectomy and ultimately, the cancer spread to her brain. She passed away at 72. It left a gaping hole in the family: “her passing created turmoil because she was the center of our family. When you’re that young, death impacts you because it impacts your family, but as you get older you realize the true impact of cancer and how it can take a life.” Indeed, that impact of breast cancer can still be felt for Tiffany, as four of her closest friends have been diagnosed, with one sadly passing, within the last few years. It’s why Tiffany feels it is so important to tell her story because “breast cancer is just everywhere and I feel like people need to be so aware of it and women need to be checking their breasts.”
She notes that both herself and her mother wish Mary had been more proactive about treatment, but Mary’s legacy serves to encourage both women to be proactive about their breast health. Tiffany’s mother tested negative for the BRCA gene and Tiffany will receive testing shortly to be aware of her own status. In the end, losing her grandmother has changed how she lives her life: “when someone close to you passes away, you structure your life differently to be proactive about your health and things that really matter.”