Evelyn Gomez

Evelyn Gomez is a cancer survivor who is motivating others to fight back against cancer by fundraising for research, with the help of her seven-year-old son, Aiden. She was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer back in 2010, while expecting Aiden. She was part of a clinical trial that opened her eyes to the value of cancer research. This in turn led her to want to give back by participating in the Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium. This year’s run on April 15 will mark Evelyn’s fifth year participating. Almost to the day, April 12, is the seven-year anniversary of her mastectomy and being cancer-free. One hundred percent of the funds raised go to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, which has and continues to be behind some of the most innovative cancer research to date.

Evelyn is a law librarian, and has worked in the library field for over 20 years. She and her family are animal lovers and Wildlife Conservation Society members. Originally from Manhattan, Evelyn lives in Jackson Heights with her husband and son.

Evelyn Gomez with her husband Michael and son Aiden. Evelyn Gomez with her husband Michael and son Aiden. QG: What lifestyle changes, if any, did your fight against cancer lead to?

EG: I tried to be conscious of eating better and exercising more—which is where the 5K comes in. The eating better doesn’t always work. For a while there, I was trying so hard to eat right that I had lost what I now think was maybe a little too much weight. (And now I could probably do with losing 5-10 pounds. I blame the holidays. What? it’s still early in the year). But every year, going on 5 years now, I’ve participated in the Damon Runyon 5K and have roped in as many people as I can convince to join me. After chemo, having a mastectomy, and following all of that up with radiation I felt like a 5K would be a good way to get in my exercise while doing some good. There are so many of these charitable events that I wasn’t sure which one to do. Then one day I saw an ad for a 5K around Yankee Stadium while on my way home from work. As a lifelong Yankees fan it caught my eye. When I looked into The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation I thought “this is perfect.” I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but I lost my father to prostate cancer, my best friend’s mother to lung cancer, and my father-in-law is a fellow survivor, as well. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And here is this organization that funds young scientists, including Nobel prize winners, who fight all kinds of cancer with research. AND I get to run around Yankee Stadium. I was sold.

QG: Had you done marathons before your diagnosis?

EG: No marathons, but coincidentally, I did run the Susan G. Komen 5K many, many years ago. It was to support my sister-in-law’s team at the hospital where she was a nurse.

QG: We understand your son also helps with fundraising for cancer research. In what capacity?

EG: He’s much cuter than I am, so I’ve posted links to both his and my donation page on my job’s community square. He’s also appealing to his aunts and uncles. I’m sure his cuteness will get him a much larger donation than I will. And he loves feeling like he’s helping, like his actions are making a difference. As a Mets fan, he’s also been willing to put our rivalry aside for a good cause.

QG: It must have been extremely difficult, not to mention discouraging, to be diagnosed with cancer when you were expecting your first child—and then to undergo treatment while caring for your newborn son. How did you get through it?

EG: I was diagnosed with breast cancer after my son was born—he was just 3 months old. It was definitely tough. Like many new moms I struggled with nursing, which was really important to me. We’d just gotten the hang of it when I had to stop so I could start chemo. I remember I was so hormonal I couldn’t stop crying at my first patient intake appointment. My poor husband, who was with me and supported me the whole way, didn’t know what to do. He was struggling with the news himself. Your first impulse when comforting someone is to say “it will be ok,” but neither of us had any idea if it would. Immediately after my surgery, my son was just 8 months old and I couldn’t pick him up while I was recovering at home. It was very frustrating. I had to have friends come over and they would pick him up and put him on the changing table so I could change him. Or put him in his high chair so I could feed him. I was extremely thankful for the help—especially since one of my friends was the one who’d just lost her mom to lung cancer. But I still struggled a bit with this internal need to take care of my son myself.

QG: Do you have advice or words of encouragement for others with similar experiences?

EG: Breathe. Take one day at a time. As women, and especially mothers, we spend much of our day putting others first and carrying a lot of responsibilities. But, when faced with cancer it’s okay to let someone else “take the wheel” for a while. People love you—so let them. Also, there’s such a thing called information overload. Don’t go out and read every website once diagnosed. Before my diagnosis, I had no idea there was more than one kind of breast cancer. I thought there was just “breast cancer.” So it’s possible to do a ton of reading (quite possibly terrifying stuff) and have none of it actually apply to you. Make sure you have a doctor you’re comfortable with and openly and honestly talk with them. They can educate you and point you to an information source that won’t make you crazy. If you feel you can’t do that, maybe picking a different doctor is best. You’re allowed to do that too.

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2018-04-01 digital edition