Patients

After a second cancer battle, every day is a “great day”

Emmy Award-winning journalist and cancer survivor Loriana Hernandez-Aldama has dedicated her life to helping others “Armorup for LIFE” for the fight against cancer

February 24, 2021

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The first time Loriana Hernandez-Aldama found out she had cancer, she was in the middle of fertility treatments to have a second baby. Instead of growing her family, she had to leave behind her then-2-year-old son, Gabriel, to spend a year in the hospital fighting for her life against acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

After a ferocious battle that included a variety of treatments and procedures, doctors declared Loriana cancer-free in late 2014. But she still needed five years to call her bone marrow transplant a success. Five years later, she received another life-changing call.

Loriana and her son on the day she left for one year of cancer treatment.

“Five years to the day, we celebrated that I survived. I made it! Sadly, I got the most unexpected "gift." They called me and said, ‘You have breast cancer.’”

More than anything, Loriana feared she would have to separate from her son yet again. It turns out this time would be different—and for that, she was grateful.

“When the breast cancer doctor called me in, the first thing I said to her was, ‘Do I have leukemia? Do I have to be separated from my son? If not, I’m OK with what you’re going to tell me.’”

Since Loriana had already received so much radiation during her first bout with cancer, her doctors ruled out a lumpectomy (removing part of the breast) followed by radiation. Instead, doctors removed both of her breasts (double mastectomy) so radiation wasn’t needed. This October, on the sixth anniversary of beating AML, she had another reason to celebrate: being in remission from both cancers.

Watch as Loriana shares her story

Loriana lifting weights

Wellness and compassion are key

Loriana credits her healthy lifestyle and physical fitness with helping her beat two types of cancer. Following her experiences, she founded a nonprofit organization called ArmorUp for LIFE to help others do the same. Her mission is to help people prepare for and fight illness by improving their overall health and wellness, which she calls “pre-habilitation.”

“The recovery was rough,” she says of the years after her treatment for AML, “but I never stopped walking. I never stopped pushing myself, because I knew that pre-habilitation and fitness mattered. It still does.”

Loriana also works with the medical community to advocate for a compassionate, whole-patient approach to treatment to improve patient experiences and outcomes.

“Compassion has meant everything to me,” she says. “When people show compassion and you know somebody is along for the ride with you, it gives you more purpose to want to stay in the game – and not give up and say this is too hard.”

“The reason I do everything I do”

“I’ve gone through so much loss, but there have been so many gains in my life because of cancer,” she says. “It really changes your perspective. Just taking another breath and having another day, to me, is a great day.”

Her son Gabriel, now 8, gives her the strength to keep fighting, even on the toughest days.

“Gabriel is my everything,” she says. “He’s the reason I wake up each day, the reason I put my two feet on the ground.”

The feeling is mutual. When Gabriel recently had to dress up as his favorite superhero for school, his choice was obvious. But there was just one problem.

“He said, ‘Mom, I can’t fit into your clothes,’” Loriana recalls. “He said, ‘You’re my hero. You fought two cancers, and you fight every day to be my mom, and I’m so grateful.’”

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“Cancer really changes your perspective. Just taking another breath and having another day, to me, is a great day.”

Loriana Hernandez-Aldama

A two-time cancer survivor and patient advocate