A cancer diagnosis does not have to be a negative thing

Image: Denell Flores believes early detection saved her life.

Denell Flores believes early detection saved her life. (Karen Mathiowetz)

When Denell Flores was growing up, she had dreams of becoming a nurse and mother when she was older. She struggled academically in grade school so she was not encouraged to pursue a higher education. She fulfilled one her dreams when she became a mommy, but thought the other dream was just that – a dream.

In 2000, her favorite aunt was dealing with end stage breast cancer. Denell stayed with her during times in the hospital. She also would take her to doctor appointments. Her aunt would tell the doctors and nurses that her niece was going to be a nurse someday. Evidently she knew something that even her niece did not know. Her aunt knew she was a caregiver and planted the seed for Denell to become a nurse.

“Several years later I was given the opportunity to go community college to pursue a career in nursing,” Flores said. “I worked as a nurse aide and completed the LVN program. I completed my RN degree on-line while working and continuing my roles of wife, mother, grandmother and caretaker. I am so blessed that my career is not a job – it is a vocation that I love and believe I was destined to do.”

While taking care of her grandmother and her father, she was introduced to palliative care and hospice. Because of this experience, it led her to become more of an advocate for her patients and their families. She has obtained multiple nursing certifications since then.

“In the fall of 2011, I was diagnosed with a very rare cancer and another not so rare. After my treatment was complete the next year, I took 3 months off from nursing. I no longer had the strength or fortitude to continue in that capacity. I had spent my entire nursing career at Baylor Hospital in Waxahachie. They called and offered me a part-time newly created position as a nurse navigator for cancer patients.”

Flores felt the position was what she had been preparing for. She knew her favorite aunt would be proud of her taking care of women like her that needed someone to advocate and navigate their breast cancer journey. The part-time position is now full time. Since she took the position she has created and facilitated a Community Breast Cancer Support Group and a breast surgery class.

“My position has allowed me to participate in research projects related to breast cancer and provide cancer education for community events. One of the best things is that I have been instrumental in creating and opening the new all service Cancer Center at Baylor Scott & White here in Waxahachie.”

Denell said that a cancer diagnosis is life changing, but it does not have to be a negative experience. She said the diagnosis sometimes gives people a purpose for living. She believes that cancer screening and early detection are very important. She also believes that early detection saved her life.

“Go with your gut,” Flores added. “If you think or know there is a problem, don’t take “no” for an answer. Be your own biggest advocate. Early detection can save your life. Cancer can be a devastating illness. My brother passed away last year from lung cancer.”

“I want to give my patients as much information to ensure they make the best decisions for them,” she added. “I want to be encouraging and positive and let them know I am here for whatever they need.”

Denell lives on a farm and raises dairy goats, chickens and rabbits. She loves making goat milk soap and riding her dirt bike. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

She is the team captain for the “I Pink I Can – I Pink I Can” team participating in the Relay for Life of Central Ellis County. The team is hoping the money they are raising will help find a cure for cancer. She is looking forward to walking the Survivor Lap with other cancer survivors.

The Relay For Life of Central Ellis County will be held on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at the Waxahachie Sports Complex from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. For more information contact Donna Daniell (469) 337-0438 or Jessica Gentry (214) 949-9918.