Remarkable Women: Abilene woman who survived terminal breast cancer diagnosis uses time gained to give back

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – An Abilene woman who beat a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis after doctors told her she only had months to live has dedicated her time to helping others since her recovery.

Stella Hernandez received her diagnosis back in February of 2002.

She says she never thought she would hear the words, “You have cancer.”

“Even after I had it confirmed with another doctor, I thought, ‘No, that can’t be right,’ said Hernandez.

Much like how our reality changed in 2020, so did hers.

“They pretty much gave me a death sentence,” said Hernandez.

At the time, Hernandez was just 45 years old and a single parent with five young children at home.

“I drove around and drove around trying to decide what I was going to tell my kids,” said Hernandez.

Tarrah Kingston, Hernandez’s daughter, was a sophomore in high school at the time.

She says she remembers the exact moment her mom told her the news.

“[I was] scared and worried because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Kingston.

The doctors told Stella she had months to live, but Hernandez says she was willing to fight.

She made a decision to go through treatment for her children, looking fear right in the eyes and walking into it.

“I didn’t want them to be alone in the world,” said Hernandez. “I decided that I was going to have to live, I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. I had to live.”

Hernandez spent 18 months in chemotherapy and radiation, which she says took a toll on her and her family.

“There were times that I thought I wasn’t going to survive the treatment,” said Hernandez.

The constant support from her family and friends, Hernandez says, gave her the strength to keep fighting.

“If it weren’t for them, I don’t know what I would have done. Emotionally, they carried me and they prayed for me,” said Hernandez.

After more than a year and a half, Hernandez was finally able to say she was cancer free.

After her clearance, Hernandez went back to school, encouraged by a friend who did the same.

She is now a Licensed Vocational Nurse, using time she thought she lost to help others.

Today her family still sits by her side, no longer fearful of the unknown and ready to take on whatever 2021 has in store.

“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had the accomplishments I’ve had so far in my life,” said Kingston. “She’s just a remarkable person and someone who’s a big encouragement in my life”

Hernandez is one of four finalists in KTAB’s Remarkable Women contest.

KTAB will highlight each of their stories on Tuesdays in March.

The winner will be announced April 1.

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