Meet Vivian: Breast Cancer Survivor and Advocate


By: Neil Patrick Healy

Vivian Chavez is a breast cancer survivor. She had decided not to broadcast that fact until now. “It’s kind of tough to talk about, but now I’m able to talk about it,” Chavez said.

Despite keeping her experiences out of the open, Chavez has still been an advocate for others going through what she did. Since her diagnosis, Chavez has been a regular participant in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, an annual event that raises money for breast cancer research.

“Since I’ve been through it, just the hopes of finding a cure got me involved in the race and the walk,” Chavez said. “Just raising money and putting the word out. That way people can walk for a cure and we can raise more money. The more, the better, with hopes that there will be a cure.

Chavez was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2010, and remembers being left in a state of shock after receiving the news. “It was kind of like a blur to me because of all the verbiage that had to do with cancer,” Chavez said. “The C word is kind of scary to anyone … [My friend] wrote everything down and explained to me a couple days later when it kind of sunk in.”

Chavez went into surgery in March 2010 before beginning a four-month regiment of chemotherapy, followed immediately by radiation therapy. Her treatment was rough, suffering from almost every side effect imaginable, including severe nausea, hair loss, dizziness, weakness. and weight loss. During her treatment, Chavez lost as much as 50 pounds.

Thanks to her successful treatment and her support from her support group, Chavez fought through breast cancer. Now, reflecting on that time period, she has become a big advocate of yearly mammograms for women over the age of 40.

“In 2009, I had missed getting a mammogram,” Chavez said. “In 2008, I got one. I missed 2009, and 2010 is when I went in and that’s when they found it. They told me if I would have went in the prior year, they would have found it at that time. So the most important thing to me is to stress how important these mammograms are. And if for some reason anyone can’t afford to go in for a mammogram, there are all kinds of resources, and I know Community Health Alliance assists with mammograms. To me, that’s the most important thing of being here and speaking out about this.”

Chavez’s experience and feelings on the issue have spawned action from those in her corner, with friends and family being active in the Race for the Cure and other activities centered around breast cancer awareness and research.

“A lot of my friends and family know what I’ve gone through, and hoping there will be a cure out there soon has made them kind of want to get involved … There are only a few [coworkers] in between that know what I’ve been through, and the ones that do know have walked, so I think that influences them as well.”

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is from 8-11:30 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Reno City Plaza. Registration can be completed at