A Patient Story: Vikki Cervantes & Her Breast Cancer Journey

While in recovery of putting the pieces back together of the beloved Porterville City Library and emotionally getting through the loss of the lives of two fallen local heroes in the library fire, while navigating the ongoing unknowns of the pandemic, devoted career woman and single parent, Vikki Cervantes was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The City of Porterville’s Librarian, Vikki Cervantes who has been running the administration at the city library since 2007 and has had a privileged 27 year career in public library service, shares her breast cancer story. She takes a stand on the importance of regular exams during breast cancer awareness month. Her story is both inspiring in how she handles the challenges and triumphs of her diagnosis of 2020 through 2021.

“I was at an annual OBGYN appointment in November of 2020 to get my mammogram in Tulare and a suspicious dime size spot, where the bra underwire meets the top rib was found,” Vikki explains. “That was an area that wasn’t found on self-checks and I don’t think I would have found it otherwise.”

The images were sent on to Sierra View Medical Center’s Imaging Department and that finding ended up not being the issue, it was the 1.5 cm spot in the right breast that Dr. MacLennan found that merited further investigation.

A biopsy then followed and a General Surgeon in Tulare who Vikki was referred to by her OBGYN did confirm that the spot found by Dr. MacLennan was cancerous and the size of about half a peanut. When the news was delivered, she was told she took it exceptionally well and Vikki’s response was: “It was because I was a Tigger and not an Eeyore. I didn’t ask for this diagnosis but I told the doctor, we have to stay positive like Tigger would to take care of it and whatever steps we have to make to take care of it, I wanted to start right away.”

Between the diagnosis in November 2020 and when the biopsy was done in March of 2021, surgery then happened in July 2021 and the cancerous lesion was removed. It was also in that time that additional spots that were giving Vikki issues lead her care team to make the decision to take precautionary biopsies, where thankfully no additional cancerous tissue was found.

After the successful surgery, Vikki asked to be referred to Roger S. Good Cancer Treatment Center. Dr. Shaker, one of SVMC’s Oncologists put her on an eight week, five days per week radiation regimen.

“I had a great radiation team,” Vikki said. “They made every visit go so smooth. As a matter of fact, I would leave on my lunch for my appointments and they would get me right in and I was back in my office within 30-40 minutes.”

She knew these appointments were important, but in the process of trying to put the library back together for the community, she felt a sense of responsibility to keep working in such a critical time. The accommodating and swiftness of the radiation process put her at ease in being able to tackle both her needed recovery care while also being available to those counting on her at home and at work.

Vikki ended radiation treatment almost one year ago and would continue to see Dr. Kim at the Roger S. Good Cancer Treatment Center once a week. She was then put on an estrogen blocker so that her body would not produce cancer cells.

Between opening the temporary library location on July 1, and in the mix of recovering Vikki was faced with many personal and professional challenges and triumphs. This led her to take to her own social media platforms to tell her story and to remind others of the importance of getting annual exams and mammograms. In July of this year she posted: “One year ago today, I was recovering from Breast Cancer surgery. I had a wonderful surgeon. I am most grateful for Dr. Mac who has been screening my mammograms for several years…”.

Vikki’s Breast Cancer Awareness Message that she shared with us that is similar to what she shares on her social media platforms include:

  • Stay on top of when you have your monthly exam when you’re in your 30s. For any female out there, this may have not been a part of my story in how cancer cells were found for me, but it is important to do self-exams.
  • Stay on top of annual gynecological appointments which will put you in the best position possible. If you are that one of eight women who is delivered the diagnosis of having breast cancer, you’re in the mindset that you have been proactive and can take this on and beat it. I feel that if I hadn’t been on top of my annual exams, I would be extremely terrified by the finding.
  • Once you get your first mammogram you have that marker. There is nothing to be afraid of. It may not be the most comfortable situation, but it only takes the technician but five minutes to get you set up and to take the actual image.

“How technology has evolved, we don’t need to be scared of this process. We need to embrace staying on top of it!” Vikki says. As humans, we may not want to see a doctor because we’re afraid of hearing the negative outcome, but Vikki wholeheartedly wants to get the message out there that we should go annually to hear the good and the bad and it’s important to put ourselves in the position to guide decision making.

Vikki felt much support during her cancer journey during the highs and lows. Her friends and family were a big part of the process. Vikki’s mom was diagnosed with stage one lymphoma about ten years ago and has been in remission for about three years now. With what she went through gave Vikki hope that she too could get through it.

A lot was thrown at her and she had to acclimate herself quickly, but she shared that Dr. Kim and Dr. Shaker were very informative. She is grateful for everyone who was a part of her diagnosis to treatment including Dr. Betre in Tulare for annual exams, to those who warmly greeted her in Sierra View’s CTC while she was getting radiation.

It’s almost time for Vikki’s annual exams again and this this time around with having a history of breast cancer and dense tissue, she has an ultrasound done that is performed here at SVMC. Vikki says, “There is a high level of comfort when you know Dr. Mac is reviewing everything.”

“In the course of diagnosis to treatment, I’m a Tigger,” Vikki says. "I didn’t let the thought enter my mind that this was not going to have a positive outcome.”

Learn more about local cancer treatment services at: Sierra View Medical Center’s Roger S. Good Cancer Treatment Center

To schedule a mammogram, visit Sierra View Medical Center’s Imaging Services