Espinosa first learned she had colorectal cancer in 2018 and was deemed cancer-free after a year. But a new lung cancer diagnosis in 2019 came as “a big surprise.”
Up until about three and a half years ago, I was someone who had never been in the hospital as a patient. I didn’t frequent doctors’ offices. I was healthy. I was traveling.
In 2018, I began not feeling well and was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is a serious disease. I was hospitalized at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and I’ve been treated with medication for all these years and have been asymptomatic.
But right after getting that diagnosis, I received a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. I had not had a colonoscopy in many years so I wound up feeling, still to this day, a lot of shame that I was not taking better care of myself and afraid to have an exam that could save my life.
That year, I underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. At the time, I made the decision not to tell people about my cancer because I didn’t want people to see me as being weak. I didn’t want anyone to see me as being less capable.
At one point, I went through six weeks of daily radiation — Monday through Friday, every day. I arranged to have the radiation in White Plains so I could go for my treatment and then rush to work. I never missed a meeting, and I took great pride in that. Many times I had some fatigue, but I really felt committed and dedicated to doing my job.
Coincidentally, 2018 is also the year we were really gearing up for our Magnet designation. [The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program is the highest and most prestigious distinction that a healthcare organization can earn for nursing excellence and innovation.] We were the first campus at NewYork-Presbyterian to achieve Magnet status. That took a lot of work, but that was the highlight of my career, and I’m very proud of that.
I remember actually being in my office in December to receive the call that we were designated. I had just gotten out of the hospital three days before, and people did not know that. Back then, I took a lot of pride in keeping quiet and being strong.
By 2019, I thought everything was fine. But on a routine PET scan follow-up for my colorectal cancer, they found the nodules on my middle lobe. At first, they thought the cancer had spread from the colon. But when they did a biopsy, they found that it was a new primary cancer. Lung cancer was a big surprise because I was asymptomatic. I quit smoking 23 years ago, but we don’t know whether or not that’s related.