Cancer survivor finds support and motivation in her rehab classes | Local news

Gabriela Aguilar-Servin is a cancer survivor who has lived in Santa Maria for 25 years since immigrating from Mexico City.

She formed a family, became a mother of two children, and built many friendships. But little did she know that while living through one of the most challenging experiences of her life, she would learn so much about herself and find a support network that would motivate her to never give up.

For years she experienced pain and bloating in her abdomen, but after one of her annual check ups with her gynecologist, they referred her to Mission Hope Cancer Center. Soon after, she underwent an 8-hour surgery to remove a 20-pound cancerous tumor from her abdominal area.

“My doctor said it was bigger than a basketball,” she said. Then came a 2-year rehabilitation process and chemotherapy journey.

“I used to go to Mission Hope more than three times a week at one point,” she said.

Gabriela Aguilar-Servin tends to herself by doing what she loves.

During her first chemotherapy appointment, she vividly remembers when two patients approached her and welcomed her with what she described as a “warm smile and wise words of encouragement.”

“I was very emotional and nervous, and they made my day by being by my side, sharing their story with me, and encouraging me not to give up. I will always remember that moment. They motivated me to do the same to all new patients,” she added.

During her treatment visits to Mission Hope, she learned about all of the resources the hospital offers to patients.

“They helped me sign up to many classes where I found a support network and activities that helped me thrive,” Aguilar-Servin said. She joined nutrition courses, psychological therapy, energy balancing, acupuncture, yoga, aquatics, and a variety of other workout classes with physical therapist John Malinowski.

Whenever Malinowski would invite her to new physical therapy classes, she would make it her mission to bring other patients with her, especially those she met in the Spanish Cancer Survivors Support Group she also joined.

“I had never worked out in my life; this was something new that I enjoyed. I noticed I started to feel better. I also felt so happy to go see my friends whom I met there,” said Aguilar-Servin. “I used to think of myself as weak and fragile, but through these classes, I not only discovered how strong I am but also found motivation in encouraging others to join me.”

Going through the cancer survival journey has taught Aguilar-Servin the importance of spending more time with her family and friends, tending to herself by doing what she loves, including assembling puzzles and gardening.

“Before, I used to come up with excuses whenever someone invited me to do something simple like going to the beach or the park. But now I am open to not only that but to experiencing new things and living life to the fullest,” she said. She added that her classes taught her to be more present and grounded and not to fear the future.

Aguilar-Servin is enthusiastic about sharing her story with other cancer patients and continuing to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and utilize the resources offered to them that can help them in their rehabilitation process.

She is getting ready for her second round of treatment after being diagnosed with cancer for a second time. “I am ready, and stronger to fight for my life,” she said.


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